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as Martel 'Too Sweet' Gordone
as Eugene T. Lawson
as 'Half Dead' Johnson
as Lt. Arnsworth
as Sweet Pea
Critic Reviews for Penitentiary
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Audience Reviews for Penitentiary
As a second wave of blaxploitation flicks that emerge out of the 1970's,the movie Penitentiary is still bedeviled by the uncomfortable contradictions of its macho forebearers,which made it a huge boxoffice hit when it was released in 1979. It's basically the servicable yarn of a young stranger on a bum rap,sentenced to an institutional hell-hole,and eventually bucking the terror regime with two righteous fists. And daubed onto the screen with the vitality of all around excess,teetering craziliy between heavy amounts of gore,rough language and all outright farce. But its assumptions for the better of its sake,either worked beyond the comprehendsion of some of its scenes which were very honest and sometimes brutal. This was a grand film that looked into the life of a penal institional system as seen through the eyes of his character,played by Leon Issac Kennedy. Another example of black cinema that was still standing at the end of the decade with some of the most replusive stereotyping ever imagine while the audience cheers on the victor who must fight in a system to stay alive at all costs. Done on a low budget,it was consciousness. A sequel followed in 1982 with Leon Issac Kennedy reprising the role. Another sequel followed in 1987 with Leon Issac Kennedy again reprising the role that made him successful in the first two installments.
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