Attention all blaxploitation fanatics! Five 1970s icons – Fred Williamson (who came up with the story and produced), Pam Grier, Jim Brown, Ron O’Neal and Richard Roundtree – team up to teach a Gary, Indiana, ghetto gang a tough-guy lesson in veteran B-movie director Larry Cohen’s hip, black badass action update.
The film effectively dramatises Gary (Williamson’s hometown) as a shell of its former self, with 70% unemployment from the shrunken steel industry, and miles and miles of empty blocks, deserted shopfronts and gang infestation as the result.
When a neighbour boy is killed and his father is wounded, ex-football star John Bookman (Williamson) returns home to straighten things out, soon bonding with ex-pal Jake Trevor (Jim Brown) and, eventually, assorted others in their 50s.
The bad boys are a predictable crew of rap-talking, gold-wearing, hoop-shooting, dope-selling gang bangers who show their elders no respect and are too quick to settle disputes with machine guns where the older men used fists.
Exciting and thought-provoking (should fire be fought with fire?), Cohen’s film is both a contemporary morality tale and an affectionately nostalgic look back at the Shaft and Foxy Brown era.
It’s also a stern lecture delivered by one generation of black men to another, and the message is: Get it together, young men.
Reverend Marshall Dorsey
Christopher B. Duncan
Eddie Bo Smith Jr.