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Robin Givens stars in this brilliant action-comedy-crime-thriller flick
about a gangster's moll, who after a bloody shoot-out in the beginning,
flees to Harlem with a trunkload of gold. She later finds herself involved
with a shy assistant(the always dependable Forest Whitaker). They
predictably fall in love and pretty soon Givens' presumed dead boyfriend
comes to town looking for her and the gold.
As my one line summary states it, this is one the best gangster movies ever made. In the vein of such gangster films like "The Untouchables" or "Hoodlum", "A Rage in Harlem" ranks pretty high up there. Director Bill Duke who directed Laurence Fishburne in the very stylish "Deep Cover" and the gritty "Hoodlum" is at the top of his game here. The 1950s setting really adds to the overall greatness of this movie.
Robin Givens is excellent and very beautiful in a role that seems almost perfectly suited for her. Forest Whitaker plays his role almost too good. Not only does fit his part but he looks it as well.
To sum it up, this movie is excellent. The direction, acting, and casting are all top notch.
I think this is an underrated classic. A story of gold,double-cross,love,revenge and death all served up with great humour nicely by the main characters. The acting is great especially Forest Whittaker as the loser who eventually comes good. Robin Givens is superb and sexy in this role as she steals the gold from her partners and goes on the run. The late great Gregory Hines is also in top form as Whittaker's brother who is only interested in the gold at first. Badja Djola plays a memorably vicious villain and Danny Glover pops up as a rival gangster who "had another dream" about Givens - much to the fury of Djola. This film has some great comic moments. The music score by Elmer Bernstein is also superb.
This takes place in 1956. Imabelle (Robin Givens) gets away from her
mobster boyfriend with a stash of gold he stole. She drives from
Mississippi to NY and hides out totally unaware that her boyfriend and
his gang are after her. She gets an overweight, naive and trusting man
named Jackson (Forest Whitaker) to love her--but then her boyfriend
shows up. She leaves him but Jackson gets his brother Goldy (Gregory
Hines) to help him find her.
That may sound a little plot heavy...but that's only the first hour! This movie is way too convoluted and far too long. Also Hines and Givens are just not good actors. They try but they can't pull this off--although Givens looks great in some of her costumes. Still I did like this.
Some previous posters pointed out that this is extremely bloody and that's very true. Also it has strong doses of black humor. Still, it didn't bother me. If anything it gave the film a few nice jolts. It's well directed by Bill Duke, has great period detail (love the cars!) and (aside from Givens and Hines) has plenty of good acting. So, if you like extreme violence, black humor and gangster movies this should work for you. I give it a 7.
This is a pretty good, violent, gangster romp directed with definite
panache by Bill Duke. Forrest Whitaker plays a decent upstanding
Christian boy how gets embroiled in hokey plot involving stolen money
(or something) and Robin Givens. Different groups of parties are all
after the dough (including Forrest's good for nothing brother Gregory
Hines), when Forrest just wants the girl. Its pretty hackneyed stuff,
but the players (in particular the great Gregory Hines and the baddass
Danny Glover) elevate it to a standard that just serves to entertain
and no more.
It also features a great recurring joke about a picture of Jesus that I won't spoil.
The only problem I have with this film is that the book it's based on is actually nothing like this. The first scene in the barn is lifted from the book, but everything else has been changed. The two cops in the film, Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed are Chester Hime's greatest creations, but here they're just an obstacle for Whittaker (who in the book is actually a supporting character and is a coward, here he is the against all the odds hero of the piece). If you haven't read Chester Hime's novels you won't notice, but be prepared to be disappointed with the liberties taken with the story.
On it's own though, this is an accomplished movie from the talented Mr Duke, who's next movie was one of the best of the nineties, Deep Cover.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Includes one minor spoiler, but it's unrelated to the plot and really
of a recommendation.)
Surprised to see so few votes and comments for A Rage in Harlem - it was a modest commercial hit in Britain, so perhaps the all-black casting and setting just didn't play Peoria.
The tone of this stylish, good-looking period crime adventure swings wildly between brutal, raunchy, tragic and comic, but a clever, funny script and likeable characters - especially Gregory Hines's big-hearted wiseguy Goldy, but also several delightfully written minor roles - maintain attention and sympathy throughout what could otherwise have been a bumpy ride. It's an emotionally engaging film, much more character-driven than the average urban thriller of the 1990s.
Its purely incidental pleasures are many, topped by a splendid musical treat in the shape of cult R 'n' B hero Screamin' Jay Hawkins, giving a no-holds-barred performance of his voodoo classic I Put a Spell on You at the Harlem Undertakers' Ball. If you have a taste for the old school of black show business, this sequence will have you holding up the rest of the picture until you've given Screamin' Jay an encore.
Thrills, laughs, and pathos, dished up with verve and heart, make a film that many of us still remember very affectionately.
The story revolves around a chest of gold. People find it and lose it,
people kill and die for it. Deceit is the currency for everyone. Well,
for everyone but Jackson, whose candid innocence and unwavering faith
in his love and his Imabelle brings some light in what's basically a
very dark tale. And this is true even with all the humor and the wit
which is indeed in the story. There's violence here, there's bad things
happening, but there's tenderness too, and caring, and straightforward
humour. The actors are familiar stars, back when a bit younger
(produced in 1991). But their talent is very evident here, shown
through every twist and tumble of the cliff-hangers throughout the
film. And the print is fine indeed; along with all production values.
Forest Whitaker, Danny Glover, Robin Givens and Gregory Hines all give
their all; everything, action, bawdy humor, music, all shine through.
The fast pace, the witty dialogues, the honest rendering of human flaws and strength reminded me a lot of the book, even if some of the dynamics are different. Still I enjoyed what's new in the film as much as I enjoyed everything in the book. One of the new ideas I particularly enjoyed is the larger importance of Imabelle character inside the story. She has a larger part, her story starts first and is presented in more detailed, and she comes across as an exceptionally hard-boiled, and still very vulnerable characters. This was just a good fun heist film set back in Harlem's hay day. Take a ride back into time and have a good laugh, you will be glad you did.
Overall rating: 7 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A Rage In Harlem is probably one of the most slept-on comedy/action
features of all time. It had an all-star cast and didn't waste them and
under the direction of Bill Duke, it succeeded in what it needed to be.
The story: Imabelle is a pretty female crook that leaves for Harlem after taking the money from the last heist she pulled with her crew with her. She meets up with a naive milksop named Jackson(Forest Whitaker)and uses his naiveté' to her advantage. She later ends up falling for him but things get worse when her gang shows up to his apartment.
A Rage In Harlem is interesting when its funny and is interesting when its not being funny. Its funny without trying too hard and it captures the 1930s era of Harlem. Plus it has nightclubs where people actually perform(hell, Harlem Nights didn't even have that). Forest Whitaker is good as the naive Jackson and Gregory Hines(RIP) is also good as his cousin Goldy. Robin Givens is great as the gorgeous but deceptive Imabelle. They have a little chemistry with each other even though I could do without the scene where Jackson licks her buns(YUCK!). Too raunchy for my taste. At any rate, A Rage In Harlem is one hell of ride from start to finish and is definitely worth being in your collection. Two thumbs up.
Also recommended movies by director Bill Duke: Hoodlum, Sister Act 2 Deep Cover.
I am totally surprised at the low rating of this film.I read numerous critic reviews to find that it was well received.I have a fondness for offbeat films and find myself at odds with critical reviews most of the time but in this case we choose to agree.I signed up to counter the one star rating left by the person who was afraid of what his girlfriend would think of him for taking her on a date to see this movie.(jeez)About the film...I was lucky enough to stumble across a print a while back,I was always a fan of "Cotten come to Harlem "and found this film much more enjoyable due to it's superb direction,well made sets and an excellent cast.The movie starts with a bang and never lets up.At times you will cringe and laugh at the same time,you get to see a famous blues player perform in a nightclub(EXCELLENT)and of course the best shot of Robin Given's butt ever committed to film.I loved it!!!!
This movie is TERRIBLE-ly funny to me - the characters are all just
totally "CHARACTERS!" - colloquially speaking! So the many prior mixed
reviews are likely because this may not be a cultural expression that
everyone can or wants to appreciate. I think another reviewer noted
this may not play well in what amounts to less 'cosmopolitan' parts of
the U.S. It is thereby easy to see why a few 'good old boys' getting
shot up is "violent!" (But war movies, werewolves, cannibalism and the
like are - not so bad?) This, even though the movie and writer have
billed this as an action comedy, loosely based on Chester Himes' novel.
I found that Robin, Forrest, Gregory, and Danny were all absolutely perfect in their roles, but most especially that indefatigable Forrest: "I ain't movin' - I ain't movin'..." And Miss Givens' Immabelle is ICONIC as many others have said. She PLAYS that role (a la Mike Tyson?). Then there's the dark, dangerous Djola, who I thought has been totally overlooked and underrated for his unforgettable role as the 'leader of the pack.' I thought he and his baritone voice portrayed an entertaining, impavid, two gun bad guy, without being vicious or ruthless.
I believe this movie is delightful with its twists and turns, and truly colorful characters. Bill Dukes is an outstanding Director! (Hence, the five-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival!) I gave it a one star because there will be some who go to WORST RATING first to see why they WON'T like this...
Watching this movie, I was reminded of Harlem Nights constantly. But, whereas the other is meant to be funny, I fear that 'Rage' is 5 stars short of being a good drama. I hate to spoil anything for the fortunate viewer that has yet to see the movie, but to avoid a sour stomach, pass on this one. I can only think of a few war movies that had more killings than this did. And with the 'can't-catch-my-breath' action (at times senseless), the movie-goer may just hyper-ventilate themselves to sleep.
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