Coonskin (1975) - Rotten Tomatoes

Coonskin (1975)

Coonskin (1975)

TOMATOMETER

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic helmer Ralph Bakshi subsequently directed the über-controversial animated feature Coonskin (aka Streetfight, 1975). Bakshi opens and closes the film with a live-action tale that stars Scatman Crothers, Miami Vice's Philip Michael Thomas, Charles Gordone, and Barry White; it recounts the adventures of three African-American men who escape from prison and are later gathered up. In between, an animated tale has animal characters with stereotypically black traits -- Brother Rabbit (voiced by Thomas), Brother Fox (voiced by Gordone), and Brother Bear (voiced by White) -- entering a white-dominated ghetto environment and diverging into different paths; one becomes a crime overlord, the second sells the first out to La Cosa Nostra, and the third establishes himself as a media-exploited sports icon. Completely misread as a racist work upon release, the film actually entails Bakshi's satirical excoriation of bigotry via the tongue-in-cheek use of black urban stereotypes. The director laces the film with profane ghetto dialogue and street slang; though animated, this is not a picture for children. Variety wrote of the work, "Beyond Bakshi's cinematic style, his stories seem haunted by a worldliness that is torn between cynicism and tortured humanism. There is heart in his plots, so superficial putdown is totally absent. What is present [is] the evidently sincere empathy of a social surgeon." The legendary Albert S. Ruddy (The Godfather, Cloud Nine) produced.

Cast

Barry White
as Samson/Brother Bear
Charles Gordone
as Preacher/Brother Fox
Scatman Crothers
as Pappy/Old Man Bone
Philip Michael Thomas
as Randy/Brother Rabbit

Critic Reviews for Coonskin

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Audience Reviews for Coonskin

½

Coonskin is an enigma, a movie boycotted by black activist groups in the 1970s while simultaneously endorsed by the NAACP, today boasting admiration from the likes of both Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino. There's no denying the visual wizardry on display here, but ultimately that's not really the point; viewers have to ask themselves whether the film's oversized depictions of racial/cultural/homosexual stereotypes fall under the category of deliberate exploitation for the sake of condemning systemic racism (and if so, does a white man have the right to attempt to make this kind of statement?) or if they simply register as limp and offensive caricatures of oppressed groups of people. Upon review, the intention is undeniably aimed at the former, the story of a group of African Americans attempting to reclaim Harlem from the stranglehold of systemic white oppression a deliberate attempt to discomfort stagnant white oppressors content in perpetuating their unspoken forms of racism and the racist imagery so prevalent in classic forms of entertainment. In terms of the execution, Bakshi's vision is unrelentingly unsubtle, lampooning racist caricatures with little regard for cohesiveness or consistent pacing. That being said, its an uncompromising vision of anti-racist material, its existence contributing to the conversation in difficult, but ultimately positive, ways.

Reece Leonard
Reece Leonard

I interpreted this controversial, inflammatory film as an analysis of stereotypes and prejudice in 1970s America. Peppered with hideous racism, violence and sexual obscenity, this is a film that took me off guard. Bakshi's vision is in no way easy to handle or pinpoint, and at times it isn't easy to decipher what his aims are. That being said, this is an exhilarating vision full of wild ideas and I was onboard from the moment it began. It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite novels: Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. In terms of its narrative approach and subject matter, it bears a lot of resemblances to that book. I think it's unfortunate that this movie has been judged the way it has, because I personally believe it has a lot of artistic merit.

Mike T.
Mike T.

Super Reviewer

½

Animated / live action kind of retelling of Songs of the South minus the cutes plus racism and set in Harlem gangster town. I don't really know what to say about this one. Interesting, different, satirical, ugly, unique. With Barry White as a boxing bear.

Lesley N
Lesley N

Super Reviewer

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