A Rage in Harlem (1991)
Based on a crime novel by Chester Himes, Bill Duke's action comedy stars Forest Whitaker as meek accountant Jackson, who falls head over heels for an on-the-lam con artist (Robin Givens) in 1956 Harlem.
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Critic Reviews for A Rage in Harlem
With its snazzy Elmer Bernstein score, its snappy period flavor and its all-star cast doing something completely different, A Rage in Harlem should have been much more fun than it is.
As the movie becomes increasingly violent and unpleasant, the characters chase around after each other in a threadbare gangster plot about a trunk of gold.
Duke and company have been true to Himes' brash, blaspheming spirit, and that is no small thing.
Bill Duke's Harlem has the heft of an imaginatively heightened reality; it's a great place to visit.
It bleeds for a kind of Harlem justice, as its intense black characters act tough, nasty, sexy, twisty, heroic and lively.
A Rage in Harlem is the kind of film that, every ten minutes or so, requires violent bloodshed or a sexual rendezvous to prevent audiences from becoming glassy-eyed and slack-jawed.
Based on Chester Himes's novel, this is a stylish, fast-moving and often humorous thriller from Deep Cover director Bill Duke.
Underneath the fancy trappings, however, is a disappointingly ordinary caper movie that moves far too slowly for a picture of this type.
That extraordinary cast, directed by Bill Duke, has little to do other than idle between sporadic outbursts of sadistic violence.
It's largely a cheap looking, tawdry affair, with tortuous interludes in which the humour devolves on gratuitous unpleasantness or tired old bad jokes at the expense of women.
Bill Duke directed this mixture of high energy and low vulgarity, which doesn't do justice to the talents of its mostly black cast.
A Rage in Harlem is an uneven combination of comedy and carnage. When it's good, it's very good. When it's not, it's simply bloody.
It's hard to believe but this film offered the first to feature a black glamorous woman--Robin Givens--since Diana Ross's ill-fated Mahogany.
Strong adaptation of Chester Himes' pulp thriller
Audience Reviews for A Rage in Harlem
(Includes one minor spoiler, but it's unrelated to the plot and really more of a recommendation.)
Surprised to see so few votes and comments for A Rage in Harlem - it was a modest commercial hit in Britain, so perhaps the all-black casting and setting just didn't play Peoria.
The tone of this stylish, good-looking period crime adventure swings wildly between brutal, raunchy, tragic and comic, but a clever, funny script and likeable characters - especially Gregory Hines's big-hearted wiseguy Goldy, but also several delightfully written minor roles - maintain attention and sympathy throughout what could otherwise have been a bumpy ride. It's an emotionally engaging film, much more character-driven than the average urban thriller of the 1990s.
Its purely incidental pleasures are many, topped by a splendid musical treat in the shape of cult R 'n' B hero Screamin' Jay Hawkins, giving a no-holds-barred performance of his voodoo classic I Put a Spell on You at the Harlem Undertakers' Ball. If you have a taste for the old school of black show business, this sequence will have you holding up the rest of the picture until you've given Screamin' Jay an encore.
Thrills, laughs, and pathos, dished up with verve and heart, make a film that many of us still remember very affectionately.
Average comic thriller interesting only for it's unusual adaptation of the book upon it was based, as it concentrates on the crooks rather than the cops.More
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