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Far more than the majority of exploitation-oriented releases that
defined "blaxploitation," this 1972 is inspired by the prior "Sweet
Sweetback" in its flashback structure and overt Black Power agenda.
It's not primarily about violence and T&A, though there's some of both.
Billy Dee Williams (in a role strikingly different to his in "Lady
Sings the Blues" that same year) plays an angry young man gradually
radicalized by racial injustices, leading to his being besieged by
police as a Panthers-type leader in the present-tense framing
"Final Comedown" is no zenith of the cinematic arts--it's dated and crude at times. But it also makes an effort not to be cartoonish: There are scenes in which some white people (notably a Jewish couple, an employment-office secretary, and some SDS types) are outraged by the racism of other white people. There are also scenes that rather charmingly exist just to promote local (I'm presuming L.A.) black-owned businesses, a diner and Africanist clothes store included.
The film touches on a lot of then (still?) relevant points, from Vietnam War post-traumatic stress to drug addiction. It's not subtle or slick, but it really tries to articulate all complicated causes for Black Power rage, not just exploit them as a trendy attitude a la Superfly, Slaughter, Shaft, Rudy Ray Moore (much as I love that guy!), etc. Some eventual cruel ironies are well-judged, though it must be said the overall narrative shaping as well as the huge death-toll shootout sequences are pretty clumsy.
This isn't exactly a good film, but it reflects its precise cultural moment in ways more mainstream films seldom did/do. Despite all rough edges it's a more complicated and intelligent narrative airing of U.S. racial tensions circa 1972 than many better-known films. In that sense it's the antithesis of the terrific current parody "Black Dynamite," which made fun of the period's tritest "blaxploitation" films. This one isn't laughable--it's a serious statement. (Though the major histrionics by veteran actress Maidie Norman as Williams' mother are pretty humorous.)
This is a serious film about black revolutionaries and not really an action film. Billy Dee plays a young man fed up with racism who decides to take things into his own hands. It's fairly gritty and realistic without exploiting the characters but still it's not that interesting either and Billy Dee's character, though maltreated by white authority figures, doesn't really come off as sympathetic. It's also hurt by it's extremely low budget. Still, it's interesting to look at as it's a good depicttion of 1970s social issues.
This brilliant and insightful film stars Billy Dee as a young college age man who is hell-bent on making changes to this racist and hypocritical system we call America .As the reluctant leader of a courageous band of young Black and White students,Billy's seething portrayal is incredible. We see not only the conflicts of race but also conflicts regarding family and the generation gap .It's obvious from the opening scenes the story can only end one way .The budgetary constraints are apparent throughout, but Oscar-caliber (imagine that!!ha ) performances make this film EXPLODE off the screen and grip you where it hurts.This picture also co-stars the late , great D'urville Martin best known as the sidekick of Fred Williamson in several fun ,but far less important blaxpo flicks. Its very interesting the story begins during the late 60's riots in L.A. with our main character mortally wounded so the story is told in a retrospect (ala Serpico)with all other characters reflecting on the situation up to the present .I think if we could , as fellow human beings relate to some of these issues in this film , America might be a decent place.Hats off to the Black Stuntmans Assoc.who helped bring this off .We need more of these films!A rarely seen GEM !
"The Final Comedown" is pretty much what you'd expect, if you don't
expect too much. A bunch of black rebels wanna not just stick it to the
man (whitey) but kill him as well! The leader is Johnny, played by
suave Billy Dee Williams. It's an early 70's street-level and uneven
As another reviewer pointed out, it really doesn't seem like Billy Dee has it so bad. Then why is he angry? He's good looking, gets chicks easily, party hops, but still hates whitey VERY intensely. However, he doesn't hate whitey enough not to sleep with his very sexy white girlfriend! But Lando just can't forget about hatin' whitey even for a minute, even in bed with his white girl, and she gets fed up with his anger and leaves him. (No worries, he hooks up with a very pretty black girl soon after.) His dad, and even his mom, are fed up with all his hate whitey talk as well. And Lando also seems to also have many white friends! They even help him plot against their own kind, and help him when he gets hurt!
"The Final Comedown" itself comes down finally, and it's pretty violent and wild. There's one lengthy sequence near the end which is just nothing but shootings - no talking, no nothing, except killing people, for minutes straight without any interruption, which is actually a pretty decent sequence of film making and editing. There's a bunch of familiar early 70's faces around.
The movie is a little confused at points, but all in all it definitely makes for an interesting bit of one-time viewing.
I was really touched by this film. I thought the cinematography was excellent in it. It's a pretty depressing movie, and it shouldn't be looked down upon just because it's propaganda. It's well edited and well crafted. Reminded me of the battleship potemkin in this regard.
"The Final Comedown" wants to "say something" about racism and inner-city violence; unfortunately, the message is invalidated by the nonsensical script, the amateurish production, and the heavy-handed polemics. How heavy-handed, you ask? To give you just one example, a black doctor comes out of his hiding place, unarmed, with his hands up in the air, ready to surrender to the police: one of the (all-white) cops says "Don't shoot him, he's a doctor", to which another cop replies: "So what? He's still a n****r", and proceeds to shoot him in cold blood. The cops are portrayed as ignorant, racist killers, even though at the end there are just as many dead people among them as there are among the black people who staged the riot. And this whole event was meant somehow to "sensitize" the white folks to the demeaning treatment of the black folks, when in fact something like this can only breed more hate and violence on both sides. Pamela Jones, as Williams' girlfriend, briefly lights up the screen with her smile and body, particularly in a tender sex scene, and elevates the rating of this movie from 1 to 2 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I must give credit to Billy Dee for trying to pull this off. Knowing this was a blaxploitation film, I started my DVD with a certain expectation. I knew it would be low budget... the acting sub-par... but hoped for a few gems to be sprinkled throughout. If there were any diamonds or gems sprinkled within this film, they were successfully buried under tons and tons of coal... or perhaps overacting. As an actor and filmmaker, I cringed often when potential poignant moments were ruined with atrocious performances. Yet, I must admit, I could not look away. I don't know if this was like a car wreck you can't turn your eyes from, or some mysterious power in the film that kept me there. This film is a good case for an excellent story that was told wrong. If Walter Kronkite were to tell "the Aristocrats" joke, it would be a total flop, although the joke itself is hilarious. Let Dave Chappelle tell it, and we are all rolling on the floor laughing. This film needed a "Chapelle." Now, with that said, if you have the opportunity to purchase this film for the dollar that I did, do it. It is well worth the money. Perhaps I will take another dollar, purchase the rights to this film, and remake it. Who knows... it might not be any better, but it surely can't be any worse.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie, as noted above, suffers from being overly preachy and
inchoate. There's also a disturbing amount of "dead" footage that
should have been left on the editing room floor.
** spoilers ahead ** Anyway, the core of the film revolves around Johnny Johnson's (Billy Dee Williams) desires to "stick to the man". Unfortunately, they never really do an adequate job of convincing the viewer (in my case anyway) that Johnny has it rough enough that he should foment a riot and kill people. Sure, he's passed over for a job that he's qualified for, and he's arrested by the cops for no reason... but other than that, his life seems to be pretty decent. In fact, he spends the majority of one day going to a party, dancing with a hot lady, going out to eat, buying some clothes, then making sweet love to the aforementioned lady. If that's indicative of "the man" keeping you down, then sign me up! The narrative is told via a largely confusing series of flashbacks that don't make a whole lot of sense -- primarily because a character will flashback to incidents/people that they weren't even a party to. For example, Luanna (Pamela Jones) asks Johnny to explain a comment he made during a conversation that she couldn't possibly been privy to. About half-way through the movie I simply stopped trying to make sense of it.
Like most of the movies I comment on, I was hoping this was going to be in the "so good it's bad" category. While it was close, it falls short of true ineptitude... which is my way of saying the movie wasn't that bad (though it wasn't that good either).
Good movie score 5/5. Bad movie score 5/5
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