Original Gangstas - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Original Gangstas Reviews

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½ January 23, 2016
A lot of fun, never really gets great, but gets damn good. I can't imagine it having much appeal if you don't love these actors like I do
November 4, 2015
"Original Gangstas" is like an unnecessary Billy Joel greatest hits compilation: wonderfully escapist, fond of grand gestures, and a little on the cheesy side. With enough guts to titularly pronounce "gangsters" with the street toughness of the Notorious B.I.G., the film is appeasing but not completely necessary. It is a comeback special for blaxploitation's biggest stars (including Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Ron O'Neal, and Richard Roundtree), harkening back to the good old days of 1970s-based cinematic black liberation, spruced up to modern standards only when need be. There is no such thing as a blaxploitation masterpiece (such ideas exclusively work in the mindset of one film being better than another), and "Original Gangstas" doesn't much change the argument. But for fans of the genre, it will certainly work as a filling, if forgettable, treat.
Like in all blaxploitation features, the ghetto is once again being disturbed by forces beyond the control of everyday citizens, this time the ghetto being set in Gary, Indiana, the forces being the Rebels, a cold-blooded gang. Most attempt to deal with them like cows deal with flies - to stand up and fight back wouldn't do much good. But that all changes when Kenny Thompson (Timothy Lewis), a well-liked local teen, is murdered in a drive-by shooting; enough becomes enough, with former Rebel John Bookman (Fred Williamson) teaming up with local brave hearts (including Kenny's mother, played by an always welcome Grier) to stage a massive set-up of retribution.
I've seen only a few blaxploitation movies, most of them starring Grier ("Coffy," "Foxy Brown"), some O'Neal ("Superfly"), and "Original Gangstas" works as an accurate continuation of the genre, capturing the recurring themes of badass vigilantism and street-side cool without breaking much of a sweat. Even the more minuscule features are there, like the way Kenny's funeral is soundtracked by the cringeworthy genre touch of a song whose lyrics directly (and unsubtly) reflect the situation at hand, or how the villains are so decked out in sociopathic swagger that we can't help but stay on the side of the dudes who aren't so blatantly over-the-top.
But the film's entertainment factor doesn't have much to do with technical familiarity - it has to do with the emotional familiarity of seeing most of the blaxploitation greats in the same room, reliving their glory days one final time. Williamson is just as convincing of a hero as he was during his youth, Grier even better as a Coffy twenty-something years later, still tough-as-nails but more noticeably hardened, smoothed out by the love that comes with motherhood.
"Original Gangstas" isn't a great film, no, but it derives a certain satisfaction from its reunion-based thrills. Cinematic eras never die so long as they're kept in our hearts, and the film is one of the few examples of a relatively unknown subgenre creeping out of its coffin in order to attain just one more moment. And that's enough for me.
½ December 2, 2013
Shit film with a deeply troubling message.
October 27, 2013
"The Expendables" for 70s blaxploitation. The film's set-up is irresistible for anyone who grew up on 70s exploitation films; nearly all of the original stars of blaxploitation reteam to clean up the streets of their old neighborhood. Directed by Larry "Hell up in Harlem" Cohen and staring Fred "Black Caesar" Williamson, Jim "Slaughter" Brown, Pam "Foxy Brown"Grier, Richard "Shaft" Roundtree, and Ron "Superfly" O'Neal. The film is also filled with genre regulars Paul Winfield, Isabel Sanford, Robert Forster, Wings Hauser, Charles Napier and Frank Pesce. Unfortunately, as great as that sounds, this script is pretty weak really, with lame dialogue and a pretty dull build up to the eventual showdown between the new and the original gangstas. If the film had been written by director Cohen, I imagine it might have had the scrappiness of his low budget genre film of the 70s and even his scripts today that continue to be smart punchy stories. It also doesn't help that the two leads, Williamson and Brown, are not the strongest of actors when it comes to delivering bad dialogue (though they both still have a fair amount of on-screen charisma), whereas Grier, Roundtree and O'Neal are better actors who can make to poor dialogue seem less awkward. The film is a definite must see for fans of the genre, but others won't get much out of it.
July 23, 2013
1972's The Godfather Is My Fourth Favorite Film Of All Time.
July 19, 2013
Failed attempt to revive the blaxpoitation action film. Where's Black Dynamite when you need him?
January 14, 2013
pretty bad, lots of crazy deaths for no reason whatsoever..
July 8, 2012
Blaxploitation legends Williamson, Grier, Brown, Roundtree and O' Neal all team up in this vigilante flick.
½ June 5, 2012
Hilariously bad. So bad that it's actually quite funny and entertaining.
½ February 9, 2012
can't help feeling more could've been done with the talent here but i wasn't expecting too much anyway. interesting to see pam grier and robert forster in a movie together before "jackie brown", one of my favorite films.
May 3, 2011
This movie what good!! Its depicts the average gangster perfect. Kayo was the best.
March 1, 2010
it sucked lol. some parts were entertaining and even funny, but it had a lame storyline, and some of the fakest fight scenes I've ever seen.
½ December 22, 2009
How can something with this much promise be so dull? I was hoping for something with the same life and sly humor that you got in so many Blaxploitation flicks, most of which dealt with the same sort of rather depressing subject matter, but this just felt heavy-handed at times and kinda average at others.

Maybe worth a rental, but I wouldn't go selling that copy of Foxy Brown quite yet, you'll definitely want to give it another look to get this taste out of your mouth.
July 11, 2009
Good to see all of the 1970s stars together.
November 5, 2008
all people that think the new getho life is cool should watch this.
September 16, 2008
tough call on this one, just not sure
½ September 24, 2006
This movie had potential, but fell through the cracks. To bad.
½ January 25, 2008
Blaxploitation reuinion of some BadassMofo's...Sentimentality out of a gunbarrell...
November 22, 2007
old folks trying to be bad
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