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Original Gangstas (1996)

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.

John Bookman
Fred Williamson
Jake Trevor
Jim Brown
Laurie Thompson
Pam Grier
Reverend Marshall Dorsey
Paul Winfield
Bubba
Ron O’Neal
Slick
Richard Roundtree
Gracie Bookman
Isabel Sanford
Spyro
Christopher B. Duncan
Damien
Eddie Bo Smith Jr.
Kayo
Dru Down
Dink
Shyheim Franklin
Detective Slatten
Robert Forster

Director
Larry Cohen