American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
It comes as a shock, about halfway through "Hoffa," to discover that the Teamsters leader has a wife and daughter. They turn up during a crowd scene. But this film about Jimmy Hoffa has no time to show him meeting his wife, courting her, marrying her, setting up housekeeping, or fathering a child. That is almost as it should be: "Hoffa" shows a man who lives, breathes, wakes, sleeps and dies for the union.
We see him for the first time as he waits outside a roadhouse in suburban Detroit. He is waiting for his death, and almost seems to know it, placing a handgun carefully between his feet in the back seat of the car. He is with his friend Bobby, and we see how they met, many years before, when Jimmy talked his way into Bobby's cab and gave him the Teamsters pitch.
Hoffa says he knows all about driving a truck. The long hours, the overtime, the unpaid downtime, the trucks killing drivers who go to sleep, the owners who think a guy can drive for 24 hours straight. He talks the language.
We see him on picket lines, haunting loading docks, living on cigarettes and coffee, shouting angrily at management and its hired Pinkertons. And we see him winning a key strike by enlisting the aid of the Mafia, paying off the syndicate by promising that certain trucks would lose their way and end up being unloaded by the mob.