Vincent Lubeck (Lawrence Tierney) is a career criminal who has recently been released from prison. He would not have gotten out had it not been for the pleas of his elderly mother. He gets a job working at his brother's gas station. Bored and jealous of his brother, he steals his brother's girlfriend, impregnates her and refuses to get married. This causes the girl to commit suicide.
Vincent Lubeck becomes very interested in the armored car that makes regular stops at the bank across the street, and he plans a heist with some of his criminal buddies. He flirts with a secretary who works at the bank, knowing that she will provide useful information.
With the money in hand, the conspirators start to turn on Lubeck.
His criminal activities are despised by his family, and they will no longer help him. He is on his own. Eventually his own brother will stand up to him.
The manhunt is on... will he escape, return to prison, or get killed?
Tropes in The Hoodlum include:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Johnny's sweetheart Rosa falls hard for Johnny's big brother Vincent: the sociopathic hoodlum of the title. This ends badly, with her being Driven to Suicide after falling pregnant to Vincent, who now wants nothing to do with her.
- Armed Blag: Working at a gas station across the road from a bank, Vincent concocts a plan to heist the armored car that stops there every Thursday.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Johnny Lubeck is a responsible young man running his own business: a gas station. His brother Vincent is the Black Sheep of the family: an ex-con just released from prison. Johnny gives Vincent a job at the gas station so he can meet his parole conditions. However, when Vincent's actions bring about the death of his sweetheart, and then their mother, he snaps. He takes Vincent hostage and drives him to the city dump: planning to execute him.
- Black Sheep: Vincent is the only criminal in his family, with an ever growing rap sheet. Only his mother believes that there is any good in him.
- Cain and Abel: There is a long-standing rivalry between Johnny Lubeck and his ne'er-do-well older brother Vincent. However, it only turns murderous when Vincent's actions cause the deaths of Johnny's sweetheart Rosa and their mother. When Mrs. Lubeck dies Johnny snaps, takes Vincent hostage, and drives him to the city dump: planning to execute him.
- Down in the Dumps: The film starts and ends in the city landfill, with the scenes in-between telling us How We Got Here. This landfill is the one that the Lubeck's first apartment overlooked, the one that Vincent grew up seeing and smelling, and the one that he has spent his entire life running away from. And that Vincent's rottenness has cost his brother Johnny everything he loved, Johnny has brought Vince here to kill him: so he can die in the garbage like he deserves. Ultimately Johnny canít bring himself to do it; Lt. Burdick, however, has been trailing them, and has no such compunctions. Vince is shot to death in the dump as he attempts to flee, and dies in a heap of garbage, old tires, and industrial refuse.
- Driven to Suicide: Rosa jumps off the roof after she discovers she is pregnant and Vincent refuses to marry her and move away.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: One of Vincent's last acts when he is on the run is to break into the family home to see his mother.
- Good-Times Montage: A montage of drinking, dining and partying is used show Vincent romancing the bank secretary Eileen as he pumps her for information about the armored car schedule.
- Hey, Wait!: The crooks use a funeral procession to smuggle the stolen cash out of the city. The hearse is stopped at a roadblock, and while one of the cops radios in to see if it has permission to proceed, another wanders over to inspect the two limousines following it. Johnny hides on the floor (he is not wearing a jacket and so stands out from the other 'mourners'). The cop peers through the window but fails to spot him. He starts to walk back to the police car, then gets a suspicious look on his face and starts to walk back to the second limo. The crooks get nervous and grip their weapons as the cop reaches the front of the car. And then re-affixes the 'FUNERAL' sticker on the windscreen that had started to peel off.
- How We Got Here: Everything between the opening and closing scenes is devoted to showing the audience how things reached the point where Johnny has Vincent Down in the Dumps and is about to execute him.
- In Medias Res: The film opens with Johnny holding Vincent at gunpoint and driving him somewhere. The rest of the film shows the events leading up to this situation.
- Job Title
- Killed Offscreen: According to the 'box score' Lt. Burdick reads Vincent when he is trying to persuade Vincent to surrender, most of the gang was been killed. Any survivors are either in hospital or jail.
- Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: Mrs. Lubeck is the only one who does not believe her son Vincent is a irredeemable hoodlum. It is her impassioned plea to the parole board that gets him released. At the end of the film, when she realises that he has committed murder and is headed for the electric chair, it breaks her heart and she dies.
- No Honor Among Thieves: The rest of Vincent's gang double cross him: knocking him out and stealing all of the loot.
- Pistol-Whipping: Vincent uses his pistol to knock out his brother Johnny to prevent him from interfering in the robbery. Later Marty uses his his gun to knock out Vincent when the gang are divvying up the loot.
- Planning with Props: Vincent and his gang map out the Armed Blag using toy cars and buildings cut out of cardboard.
- Sibling Triangle: Rosa is the sweetheart of Johnny Lubeck, with an understanding that they are going to get married. However, when Johnny's Black Sheep brother Vincent is released from prison and comes to work for Johnny, she finds herself attracted to him. Their illicit affair ultimately results in her being Driven to Suicide.
- Spinning Newspaper: Used to show the passage of time and the progress of the manhunt for the bank robbers.
- Spurned into Suicide: Rosa jumps off the roof after she discovers she is pregnant and Vincent refuses to marry her and move away.