Dir: Barry Pollack
Star: Thalmus Rasulala, Judy Pace, Jim Watkins, Lincoln Kilpatrick
I never thought I’d write this about a blaxploitation film, but this just has too complex a plot. Usually, the genre offers straightforward, simple tales of crime and punishment, revenge and justice: the attitude and style (and, let’s be honest, the hair) are far more critical to its success or failure than a story with twists and turns. At least initially, the film doesn’t do badly, with some nice touches of irony, suggesting tongue is not far from cheek. However, it then abandons this approach in favour of a series of double-crosses which are almost impossible to keep track of, and the film borders on the incoherent by the end. It centers on Sidney Lloyd James (Rasulala), who gets out of prison and immediately begins planning a robbery. The motley crew he brings on board include a preacher who’s a top safe-cracker and a young dude who owes money to his bookie – so what could possibly go wrong?
Well, just about everything, I guess, and if you were in the mood for a super-twisty, borderline incomprehensible heist film, this would probably fit the bill. However, it’s certainly not what we were expecting, and the main entertainment value was to be found in spotting people who’d go on to other, greater things. Despite a borderline misogynist tone, the actresses seem to fair rather more well than the actors in this regard: you’ll see Margaret Avery, Oscar-nominated for The Color Purple fourteen years later, and in a small role as a hooker, someone called Pamela Grier. Otherwise, despite the occasionally amusing moments, this was much better the first time they made it – when it was directed by John Huston and called The Asphalt Jungle