70’s Blaxploitation meets 90’s ghetto warfare in this urban shoot ’em up co-directed by exploitation legends Larry Cohen and Fred Williamson. The streets are mean and running amok with criminal filth; after a young basketball starlet is shot down for being hustling gang bangers, a local store owner reports the crime, but he too is gunned down by the hoodlums, which doesn’t sit too well with the neighbourhood old guard comprising of Blaxploitation icons Pam Grier, Fred Williamson and Jim Brown; expect vigilante justice.
Social commentary about the state of America’s ghetto’s is a prevalent theme in Original Gangsters, but don’t go in expecting to leave with a deeply profound sociological awakening; this is essentially a reunion for the legends of yesteryear to get together and have a nostalgic hurrah cleaning up the streets of the trash who litter it with their crime. Kudos is given for reapplying the classic 70’s urban vigilante tale we’ve seen from these guys countless times before to fit the Zeitgeist of 90’s African American street life stereotypes; but when you strip it to the bare bones it’s the same old song and dance. They might be older and wiser, but it’s like nothing has changed at all.
The cast includes the aforementioned legends of Blaxploitation cinema, along with Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Ron O’Neal (Super Fly) and Robert Forster (Medium Cool), as the unwelcome and not required police detective. It’s like getting the old gang back together on and off screen to give fans what they want and expect. However, with age comes maturity, and every performance is that of a seasoned veteran; but that doesn’t mean they can’t still throw down. Fred Williamson’s bruiser martial arts lands many a hood rat on their ass.
Original Gangsters is a straight up throwback to the heyday of African American action machismo; only the gangsta rap has replaced the funky soul and the villains are inner city G’s as opposed to pimps and the honkeys. However, it ticks all of the right boxes in terms of action, performances and popcorn social commentary, so all in all; fun movie. 7/10
Larry Cohen, Fred Williamson
Aubrey K. Ratten
Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Jim Brown, Richard Roundree
Action, Crime, Drama, Blaxploitation