Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song Reviews

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May 26, 2015
So, is it an experimental film with a Blaxploitation theme or a Blaxploitation film using experimental methods? (Or an experimental Blaxploitation film, as if such a genre existed?). Melvin Van Peebles uses every trick in the filmmaker's bag (and on a very low budget) to create a somewhat crazy meditation on our Black hero's trouble with The Man (he defends a brother who is being shaken down by two White cops) and his flight on foot from L.A. to Mexico. Earth Wind and Fire provide elements of the soundtrack - or is it just that one riff played over and over and over? The rest of the soundtrack is, again, experimental and full of subjective effects and non-diegetic sounds. Van Peebles himself plays Sweetback who is renowned for his prowess in the sack (he grew up in a brothel). Shall I mention that this film also breaks taboos and must have been rated X in its day (although would be seen as somewhat tamer today, though definitely laced with nudity/sex and a tiny bit of fake blood). Nothing like Shaft or the mainstream Blaxploitation films (you have been warned); so, probably not worth your time if you wouldn't also enjoy plotless experimental fare. But otherwise great!
January 16, 2015
I have seen many movies in my time and this one is in the running for the worst! I don't see how any body could like this movie! How did it even make it to film is hard to grasp!
May 24, 2012
Perhaps of more significance historically than cinematic ally, I nonetheless found this a fascinating film. It was not a widely distributed film but in the limited markets where it was shown (mostly in "black neighborhoods" I would imagine) it was a HUGE success. Watching this film now (a bizarre, disjointed "experimental" film) it's hard to imagine what audiences made of it back in the 60s. It's certainly doubtful that it would have the same impact if it came out today... but back in the 60s the very *idea* of a film centered on a black hero on the run from some less-than-perfect police officers was enough to blow peoples' minds. The movie is very a much a product of its time (lots of weird color effects and editing tricks) but I think the "dated" aspects of the film help put the audience back into that particular time and place rather than distancing them from the movie itself. It's not a perfect movie by any means but it has a strength and a style and great passion... and, in my view, that trumps bland competence.
½ November 3, 2014
Por maior que seja a importância histórica de "Sweet Sweetback's...", enquanto filme de libertação e contestação assumidíssima por parte da comunidade afro-americana, não há muito mais para retirar daqui além de toda essa energia rebelde. O filme de Melvin Van Peebles esforça-se por ter um ritmo musical funk-jazz, mas algumas das suas vinhetas são bastante enfadonhas e perto dos 60 minutos comecei a desejar que o filme terminasse.
½ January 2, 2014
I happened across "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" while researching the history of Earth Wind & Fire (EWF ). The movie, which a friend had told me helped EWF take off, is certainly different from what I was expecting from a movie of the time period (it's not as if I hold a depth of movie history to draw from in forming my expectation, but still...). After having watched the film I'm left confused as to exactly what type of creature possessed Melvin Van Peebles. Allow me to elaborate...

The movie, within the first few minutes, leads with a graphic scene which is portrayed in a manner I'm unable to imagine anyone not feeling extremely uncomfortable with. As if the act were not heinous enough (in and of itself), the scene lasts much longer than it needs to. This was a common issue throughout the movie. The flick's progression is further handicapped by bad editing with some scenes being presented, then lingering uncomfortably long after their point is established, while other scenes are interrupted by harsh jump-cuts, and the replaying of the poorly written lines of dialogue multiple times.

Melvin Van Peebles' character, Sweetback (named such for his sexual prowess), is chased throughout Los Angeles in an attempt to stop him from from reaching the Mexican boarder. Think Kurt Russell, in the "Escape From" series (New York, & L.A.), but without the interesting character development, cool weaponry, believable action scenes, or passable acting. Pursued by the oppressive authority of the racist "White" man's police force, our hero orphan, Sweetback, fights the power by beating up, & killing cops. The film never provides a reason for the viewer to care about the protagonist though.

Portraying Sweetback as one part super sex-machine, one part cop killer, & one part long-distance marathoner, the film stitches one poorly acted, poorly cut, unbelievable escape to another poorly acted, poorly cut, unbelievable escape via long, drawn-out, cross-country treks, or a gratuitous showing of Sweetback's genitals. The movie might have actually made for a better viewing as a porn flick, being that in porn the why's don't matter as much as the money-shot. Fantasy violence gives way to fantasy sexuality as one inept police officer after another falls to the might of our over sexualized protagonist. In one scene, Sweetback turns a hostile all "White" biker-gang into a captive and accepting audience by challenging their female leader to a sex-off. No, It's really in the movie.

I'm not sure of what surprises me more; the 19 hours of filming that went into the production, the $150,000 budget the picture was made for, the $15 million the film grossed, the fact that I was able to tolerate Van Peebles' awkward running for an hour & a half, or that the career of EWF was assisted in any way by providing the soundtrack to this movie.

Suffering from lack of clear narrative, plot & character development, calling "Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" - bad - is an understatement. It could be used as a rubric of what not to do in cinema. Then again, it did make $15 million...
½ September 17, 2013
Must see for any film student or civil rights historian. And all Americans should be amateur historians! Do you know who "Da Man" is?
June 2, 2013
This movie is pretty weird, but cool in its own right. While it does have that quality, it's just not as good as Shaft in my opinion. What I don't seem to get is the music. I think it's trying to be soul or R&B (as it was in the 70's), but the most recurring track in the film tends to sound distorted. Then again, it was made on a budget of only $150,000. The plot doesn't seem to make sense at first, but eventually, you'll get it. It's not bad, and the action isn't bad either, but by comparison, I think I prefer Shaft. Though I do like the opening and ending text, and how it affects the feel of the movie.
March 30, 2013
The original blaxploitation film this controversial, shocking and occasionally funny picture certainly caused some waves at the time of its release. There is a lot of experimentation on show here and some clearly does not work but its vibrant and definitely memorable.
½ March 30, 2013
I like to pride myself as having seen a wide range of films however I'm embarrassed to admit that one subgenre of film that is my complete spot was blaxploitation. Well, not anymore. Despite being very obviously a product of its time, this film is still very much fun to watch. It's very well crafted (despite the rough around the edges quality) and its daring content still packs a punch. Add to that the really cool soundtrack. The third act feels a bit padded out but apart from that, it's one really cool movie.
½ March 18, 2013
Not necessarily a "good" film, but indeed a very important one. Made independently (no studio would fund it) on a shoestring budget of only $150,000, Sweet Sweetback grossed an astonishing $15.2 million at the box office (11th highest grossing film of 1971) and paved the way of the likes of Spike Lee, John Singleton and other influential African American filmmakers. It's very rough around the edges and overall, the film is a total mess, script- and performance-wise. However, the film's aesthetic quality has a psychedelic aura that keeps the viewer captivated with its innovative cinematography, editing, and score. In entertainment value, it does not fail.
½ March 18, 2013
Not necessarily a "good" film, but indeed a very important one. Made independently (no studio would fund it) on a shoestring budget of only $150,000, Sweet Sweetback grossed an astonishing $15.2 million at the box office (11th highest grossing film of 1971) and paved the way of the likes of Spike Lee, John Singleton and other influential African American filmmakers. It's very rough around the edges and overall, the film is a total mess, script- and performance-wise. However, the film's aesthetic quality has a psychedelic aura that keeps the viewer captivated with its innovative cinematography, editing, and score. In entertainment value, it does not fail.
½ March 10, 2013
The film that started the entire Blaxploitation film genre is this important landmark film about a black man who grew up in a brothel, works as sex entertainment there as an adult, and ends up on the run after beating two LAPD officers unconscious after they arrested him for no legitimate reason and then beat another black guy up. It's full of sex and violence, which makes this much more of an exploitation film than "Shaft" really is (it is more of a gritty detective drama that just happens to have a black lead). The success of this and "Shaft" the same year ultimately created a string of blaxploitation films in the 1970s. The film itself is very rough around the edges, but that is part of the appeal, that Van Peebles made this on a low budget and did everything practically himself in order to make his film...it may be rough but it is something, and it made a lasting impression on cinema, particularly for black people working in cinema.
½ November 6, 2012
I understand its significance, but to me its almost unwatchable.
December 16, 2012
Truly a one of a kind movie that deserves to be seen more than once. In my own opinion to truly appreciate this film you have to go see Mario Van Peebles Badassssss. It'll explain the films need to be made in the first place plus it shows how hard making a film really is especially one of this caliber.
September 15, 2012
A statement film about police brutality and injustice.
June 24, 2012
"Watch out, a baad asssss nigger is coming back to collect so dues..."

Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song was the movie that actually started a whole sub-genre called blaxploitation, a genre by black people, about black people and for black people. It's show us the poor treatment that they where exposed to, and whom finally get to see one of their own get out his rage towards the whites.

This is the story about the african-american street hustler Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles) who is blessed with a large equipment who every women have adores since he was a little kid. But one night two white policemen need a suspect for a criminal act, so it's natural that they can always find a black man. But on his way to the station followed by the cops, the cops beats up another black man, and Sweetback smashes both of the cops in the head with his handcuffs and beat them to death. Sweetback is now a wanted criminal, and he has no other choice than to make it to the Mexican border. And sadly enough many of his brothers is going to pay for his freedom.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song is not a great film, it's pretty much kind of dragging, and the production qualities are poor, and also much of the acting, but then again it's a low budget film, which makes it kind of cool. It's jazz soundtrack is good, but it might be to much of the same tune, and it feel exhausted after a while, plus all the color filter effect which makes me dizzy. But what really makes this movie works is the use of realism in forms of sexual intercourse and shocking violence, which really brings out the message. So I give it a marginal thumbs up.
May 23, 2012
A liberating violent-sexual fantasy mixing black power politics with hippie soul brother grooves. Like a crazy delirious wet dream of rebellion.
May 16, 2012
This is a very important film, its quite crappy when it comes to the technical side of things but its still good entertainment.
April 16, 2012
Made, after an arduous struggle, by Melvin Van Peebles, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song was the spark that created a blaze of 1970's blaxploitation films. The plot of this movie is about Sweetback (Van Peebles) going on the lam after he kicks the crap out of some corrupt white cops. The story, which is paced with plodding gracelessness, is told with a level of sloppy and painful-to-watch filmmaking. While it's an invaluable historical document, the story about this film's genesis is much more interesting than the movie itself. One would be better served by watching Baadasssss!, Mario Van Peeble's excellent dramatization of the tale behind the movie.
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