Original Gangstas (1996)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Larry Cohen, who directed a number of interesting and subversive exploitation films in the 1970s and 1980s, including Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem, reunited some of the biggest stars of the blaxploitation era for this tough-minded action opus. John Bookman (Fred Williamson) is a successful football coach who was born in Gary, Indiana but now lives in Los Angeles. When Bookman's father is shot, he returns home for the first time in years to discover that Gary has been all but taken over by a number of brutally violent youth gangs. Bookman learns that his father was shot in retaliation for going to the police after a young man was killed by gang bangers outside his grocery store; even worse, the kid who pulled the trigger was a member of the Rebels, the gang that he helped form as a teenager. Outraged, Bookman joins forces with the boy's parents, who also happen to be old friends: Jake Trevor (Jim Brown) and Laurie Thompson (Pam Grier). John, Laurie, and Jake organize the neighborhood against the gangs, with John's old gang brothers Bubba (Ron O'Neal) and Slick (Richard Roundtree) tagging along to show the young gangstas what the old school can do. If Williamson, Brown, Grier, O'Neal, and Roundtree all look a bit older than they did in their glory days, they all still boast charisma to spare, and anyone who liked their older films will have a good time with this one.
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Action & Adventure , Cult Movies , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Orion Home Video

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Fred Williamson
as John Bookman
Jim Brown
as Jake Trevor
Pam Grier
as Laurie Thompson
Paul Winfield
as Rev. Marshall Dorsey
Ron O'Neal
as Bubba
Dru Down
as Kayo
Isabel Sanford
as Gracie Bookman
Oscar Brown Jr.
as Marvin Bookman
Robert Forster
as Detective Slatten
Wings Hauser
as Michael Casey
Charles Napier
as The Mayor
Frank Pesce
as Detective Watts
as Marcus
Seraiah Carol
as Thelma/Mrs. Jones
Dawn Stern
as Princess
Timothy T. Lewis
as Kenny Thompson
Linda Marie Bright
as Lisa Bookman
Nick Edenetti
as TV Announcer
Jacqueline Swike
as TV News Reporter
Kimberly Shufford
as Lady in Gym
Idella Haywood
as 2nd Lady in Gym
Raymond Taylor
as Boy Left in Street
as Rebel Guard at Party
Bushwick Bill
as Party Cigar Smoker
Dani Girl
as Dancer at Party
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Critic Reviews for Original Gangstas

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (5)

Original Gangstas leaves you feeling that more could have been made of this 'blaxploitation' reunion, but it's not bad -- and no more and no less substantial than the films of the original cycle.

Full Review… | February 13, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Where Original Gangstas works is in its understanding that the stars are playing the characters they created 25 years ago as their older selves.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Top Critic

The purpose is to entertain, and on that score the film delivers impressively.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

Think Boyz N the Hood meets The Mod Squad.

December 31, 1999
Detroit News
Top Critic

A top notch B-movie.

Full Review… | September 10, 2002
Montreal Film Journal

Although the leads are intended to be cool and menacing, the result resembles parody; scenes of drugs, guns and fights are likely to make audiences burst out in laughter.

Full Review… | June 5, 2002
Boxoffice Magazine

Audience Reviews for Original Gangstas


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.

Bill Bryant
Bill Bryant

I liked it. It's basically Fred Williamson & Jim Brown beating the shit out younger & more athletic guys but it's pretty cool just seeing them kick ass. Overall, pretty unrealistic but who said a movie has to be realistic anyway? Williamson has his signature cigar, which is always a plus. Overall, pretty entertaining. Not too violent. A nice little blaxploitation all-star flick directed by Larry Cohen. Could've used more Richard Roundtree though.

Christopher Stevens
Christopher Stevens

Flat action film but the cast is great and I'm sure you've seen *everyone* in something before. Cohen is not always the best director but he can assemble casts better than anyone bar Robert Altman.

Brian Flynn
Brian Flynn

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