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The deliberate anachronisms (such as 'Victorian' rap singers and modern swear words like "motherf****er"), are irritating to the extreme.
A Frankenstein monster that died on the lab table.
One senses that Peeples strived to use as many notable black (and some not so notable - smile) actors as possible : ) Perhaps too many, some notable persons (Issac Hayes, Pamela Grier) are only scene in cameo, others briefly such as Tone Loc. The sentiment and efforts of Peebles efforts to expose these actors will be understood by some. The large cast (a feat for any director) work well and do a good job of telling the story in the classic "revenge and fight vs justice" western.
Most noteworthy was the wonderful narrative role of veteran actor Woody Strode (from Once Upon A Time In The West), who's own life was a barrier-breaker, within the context of a previous era not yet completed faded from memory. No other actor could have done this role better. Read the mini-bio on Woody Strode here as a primer: http://imdb.com/name/nm0834754/bio
The film does a good job of balancing action with a bit of sardonic humour. The dialog was excellent if a bit contemporary! And as others have mentioned the profanity was not accurate to that period. The sex scene was a bit much -- not really needed. There are some historical inaccuracies such as the seeming electronic branding of the cattle etc. But Posse is a good effort to hopefully open the door for more historical and creative works reflective of other untold stories and events. The actual photos of real cowboys at the end credits was very nice touch.
Exploitive? Sex scenes abound, profanity abounds, violence and gore abounds.....everything that gives modern movies such a good name, especially among those who prefer classic-era movies. This is the kind of sleaze that gives the old folks ammunition against today's films.
Somehow I just can't picture nude male bathing scenes in Randolph Scott or Gene Autrey films. Nor can I picture hearing "motherf---er!" exclaimed here and there. I sincerely doubt that word was even around over 100 years ago. Yet, the f-word is so prevalent here you'd think you were watching a story centered in today's urban areas, not the old west of the 1800s.
Prejudice? Well, what if all the white characters were good guys and every black person was the nasty, brutal villain? Do you think someone might complain about a racist movie? Home come we don't hear an outcry when the reverse - as demonstrated in this film - is shown in hundreds of theaters across the country?
Mario Van Peeples wrote, directed and starred in this bomb. Remember that name. Apparently, he is the "Ed Wood" of today's filmmakers. Even Spike Lee wouldn't be this racist. You can't get much worse than this movie.
A blown opportunity for greatness.
"Posse," written, produced and directed by Mario Van Peebles, had promise. Unfortunately, it gets bogged down by cliches and a tired storyline. A rousing climax almost saves the film, though.
The movie begins with a stark history lesson about the true accomplishments of blacks in the Old West, as told to Reginald and Warren Hudlin by an old man (the legendary Woody Strode). He then segues into the fictitious story of Jesse Lee...
Lee (Mario Van Peebles) and his men are getting cut to pieces by the Spanish during the Spanish-American War while their commanding officer (a slimy, but effective Billy Zane) drinks Cognac miles away. Lee complains about the conditions and is arrested. Zane later promises to exonerate him and his men if they will pull off a mission for him -- namely to steal valuable documents from the Spanish. Stephen Baldwin is thrown in with Lee's gang because he's a troublemaker Zane wants to get rid of. The group pulls off the mission, but, instead of finding documents, they find gold bullion. They also find Zane and his cohorts waiting at the rendezvous point with guns to finish them off. Unfortunately for Zane, his men are like Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders -- long on bravado, short on skill. Lee's men, having been in combat, get the drop on Zane, kill most of his men and flee back to America as wanted men. (By the way, the method they use to get out of Cuba and back to America is original, but very creepy).
The middle part of the film is spent showing Lee and his men (rapper Tone Loc, Baldwin, a whiny aide and a few spares) heading to New Orleans, where they meet up with Big Daddy Kane. They also run into Zane, who has been tracking them. The whole tracking plotline is hard to believe (remember how long it took John Wayne to track down Natalie Wood in "The Searchers"?), but it makes for good shootouts.
Eventually, Lee and his men make it back to Lee's hometown, a black township full of freedmen. Such townships were numerous in the Old West, but survived only at the whim of white county officials (watch "Rosewood" for an example of what they often suffered from). The town is run by Richard Jordan as a greedy sheriff in cahoots with some crooked county officials. Throw in Zane and his own posse, along with a Gatling gun and you get the rousing climax.
Mario Van Peebles is not much of an actor, but he has enough range and skill to carry the burden of being Jesse Lee. Baldwin is not quite up to par with brothers Alec and Daniel, but he holds his own, especially when he meets his demise at the hands of fellow whites. I liked Big Daddy Kane's soft-spoken, but proud and defiant, role as Father Time and the way he kept looking at his pocket watch before doing anything. Tone Loc was a waste, though, since he kept rapping like it was 1998 instead of 1898.
The town basically had one purpose and that was to show off an impressive cast of black stars -- Melvin Van Peebles, Pam Grier, Reginald Vel Johnson and Nipsey Russell, among others. Of course, having a cameo meant biting the bullet (literally) in the finale.
By the way, another problem for "Posse" was its setting. Many contributions and accomplishments by African-Americans came during the years following the Civil War, from 1865-1890. Black soldiers became the vaunted Buffalo Soldiers who protected white settlers and tracked down Geronimo. Freed blacks moved west in droves as homesteaders and as cowboys on cattle drives because many white men had been killed or maimed during the war. Black townships sprang up in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Black lawmen like the legendary Bass Reeves were in abundance, especially in Oklahoma and Texas. By 1898, blacks were in a decline (despite their bravery in the Spanish-American War) that would not be reversed until World War I. Surely, Van Peebles could have drawn up a storyline set between 1865 and 1890.
"Posse" has a lot going for it. It's too bad Mario Van Peebles went for cliches, shootouts and tired storylines meant to sell tickets rather than tell a good story. "Unforgiven" and "Tombstone" showed you can do both.
It's been known for a while now that there were black cowboys and this film shows exactly what they had to put up with. As for the film's villains, Billy Zane is very good as a chew-the-scenery camp villain, but the really hateful one is Richard Jordan as a corrupt white sheriff.
The action sequences are handled brilliantly. Things could have been improved about the movie, however. For instance, capable performers like Pam Grier, Isaac Hayes and DIE HARD's Reginald Veljohnson appear but are given a set of thankless cameos (I don't think Grier even has any lines.).
Also, Tone Loc as Angel, the sixth member of the Posse is killed off incredibly early in the film. Strangely, at the start of the film, we are shown a picture of the Posse which includes him and Father Time. But the thing is, Angel is killed before Father Time actually hooks up with the posse. In addition, although he comes good in the end, Charles Lane's character is a real creep at first. It's only the sacrifice of Stephen Baldwin's Little J that he comes good.
These gripes aside, POSSE is a very enjoyable film and worth spending time viewing.
The plot, backdrop, music and talent were all top notch. It was great that you used so many African-American artists to tell the tale of the black cowboy. It was also good to see Billy Zane in this movie. Does he ever play a good guy?
I would highly recommend this film to anyone who wants to broaden their way of thinking. This is an excellent movie and I feel privileged to have seen it. Hopefully, you'll feel the same.
"Posse" was a pivotal step to tell a great story in this compelling and refreshing story that is loaded with originality. It had potential to be a really good story, sadly director Mario Van Peebles tends to go overboard by practically rubbing the story right in-your-face to get his message across. At times the historical references become so overly done, the actual story becomes secondary which can be very distracting and disjointed. It may look good for a documentary, but for a movie, it makes the entire story very thin. Aside from that the quick-cuts from scenes are very distracting and the noisy backgrounds are also too loud that it upstages the dialogue provided.
Van Peebles is without a doubt an excellent director. He was outstanding in the 1991 film "New Jack City." So where are the flaws in "Posse"? Did he feel that the dryness from the basic story needed some much-needed tweaking on the visual references? Did he just lean towards the style and forgot that a story to develop we also need substancebecause were weren't getting any here? Set after the Spanish-American War U.S. Army 10th Calvary Regiment led by Jessie Lee (Van Peebles)joins forces with Weezie (Charles Lane), Angel (Tone Loc), Obobo (TinyLister) and Caucasian ally Little J (Stephen Baldwin) courageously step up to winback their city from the corruption from racist outlaw Colonel Graham (Billy Zane). The fight scenes feel very anti-climactic and the soundtrack just carries on like it's a an overlong music video.
Once the war is over, the Calvary heads home to Freemanville, where Jessie grew up. Only to realize that his community has changed and is now been taken over by racist neighbors and a law enforcement that caters to white people. Therefore, the posse joins forces to restore their town and to wipe out the corruption.
For a story of this magnitude, it had a lot of great material for a an interesting and provocative Western story that has never been looked upon. But instead we get a simplified, lazily scripted visually-laden shoot-em-up fight between good against evil. The story line is never in full focus and the characters are not that easy to care about because the development is poorly structured. It's just too dependent on action but it's all without purpose.
You've heard of the quote, "too many cooks spoil the broth". Well Van Peebles casts a plethora of big name stars from Isaac Hayes to Blair Underwood from Pam Grier to Nipsy Russell. Well as big as those names are, they don't really have much to do here and that an extra would've been better cast in their roles.
When all the dust settles all the message we get is that white people then and now continually deprive the black man from equal opportunity, no matter how much they have succeeded over years. The freely utilized preachy ways were handed out to what the story failed to offer. If these closing messages were with us the whole time, "Posse" would've been a better film instead of succumbing to an endless array of sloganeering.
The problem here is Peebles has gone down the silly shoot 'em up route where maybe a more sensible approach could of worked wonders. The other problem is the film is pretty close to B-movie territory with a very average D-list cast and poor looking action sequences. Plus every single western cliché has been thrown in alongside every single modern action flick cliché too, its like a John Woo movie in the wild west.
Its a clichéd western of course as you would expect but it all looks slightly cheap with bad editing. Other things spoil its potential such as certain moments where characters use the swear word motherf*cker which I doubt is accurate for the time methinks. Also the way Peebles has clearly tried to make himself look as super cool as possible is cringeworthy. His costume looks like its from a graphic novel of a dark brooding anti-hero whilst everyone else looks relatively accurate for the era. Talk about giving yourself the best role with the best looking duds.
Billy Zane does add some class and laughs into the situation but his character is so stupid. He basically plays a regular out n out villain, with redneck tendencies naturally, who just happens to be wearing civil war era attire. This character could be placed in any action movie in any setting and it wouldn't make any difference, he would still be exactly the same and the film would be exactly the same. He's just a plain villain, he has nothing to do with the era he's placed in other than the fact he's wearing civil war uniform. A good evil turn from Zane sure but the character is such a stereotypical Hollywood bad guy.
Basically Peebles has gone for the slick rock n roll 'Young Guns' approach mixed with silly action movie clichés...but has failed on both counts. A more realistic film could have been a winner as this subject hasn't been touched upon much in Hollywood. Nail in the coffin for me was the quite hideously out of place rap track over the end credits, errr...no.
In 1993, African-American director/actor Mario Van Peebles followed up the tremendously popular urban-action film New Jack City with "Posse". The film was co-written and directed by Van Peebles, who also stars as the main character, Jessie Lee.
Plot: The film begins at the turn of the 20th century, when the United States was embroiled in the Spanish-American war. Apparently a time when the U.S. justice system could send convicts into military service, Jessie Lee finds himself an unwilling enlisted man, serving with an all-black cavalry troop in Cuba. Some of his compatriots include Little J (Stephen Baldwin), fast-talking Weezie (Charles Lane) and the towering-but-simple Obobo (Tiny Lister). They find a hidden chest of gold on a reconnaissance run and decide to keep it. However, the ambitious, bigoted Colonel Graham (Zane) finds out about the gold, and is apparently willing to kill Jessie Lee and company for it. A shootout between the Graham's forces and Jessie Lee's leaves the colonel blind in one eye, and his forces retreat. Jessie Lee's ragtag crew manage to smuggle themselves (and the gold) back to New Orleans, but it turns out that Graham isn't far behind. Jessie Lee and his allies are forced to go on the run, heading west, to a town called Freemanville. Apparently, Freemanville was founded by blacks in the years following the Civil War. Jessie Lee's father, "King David", was the charismatic preacher who co-founded the town. However, as is revealed in intermittent flashbacks, King David was soon brutally murdered by a white mob, in a parallel of the Ku Klux Klan terror campaigns that began around the same time. Jessie Lee and company eventually find their way to Freemanville, only to find that the townsfolk aren't exactly glad to see himespecially when Sheriff Bates (Richard Jordan) of a nearby white township makes it clear that he wants Jessie Lee and his partnersdead or alive. Carver (Blair Underwood) is the sheriff and de facto mayor of Freemanvilleand his own agenda may not square with having Jessie Lee around.
Analysis The action sequences are all very credible, and Mario Van Peebles turns in a good performance as the brooding hero. In the aftermath of the success of New Jack City, it was almost expected Van Peebles would helm a sequel, or at least a similar urban-action follow-up. Instead, Van Peebles looked 100 years into the past, creating a mostly-black Western (effectively 'updating' the black-themed Westerns of the 1970's), and continuing the legacy of largely-forgotten black-themed cowboy films from the early 20th century. Unlike New Jack City, the film was independently financed, and originally released through Gramercy/Polygram Entertainment. Allegedly, execs at the major studios balked when Van Peebles pitched 'Posse' to them. Some of the more "curious" casting at the time involved rappers Big Daddy Kane and Tone Loc as Father Time and Angel, respectively. In certain interviews, Mario Van Peebles has said that he often likes to cast against type; in the years since, the trend of casting rap singers in non-musical films would become almost commonplace. Keen viewers will notice several cameos by various entertainment personalities: Black-action film veterans like Isaac Hayes ("Truck Turner"), Pam Grier ("Foxy Brown") and Larry Cook ("The Spook who Sat by the Door") show up, as does stand-up legend Nipsey Russell, not to mention TV producer Stephen J. Cannell (who hired the junior Van Peebles to star in "Sonny Spoon" years earlier). The film is bookended with Woody Strode ("Spartacus") in a key role.
Billy Zane relishes as the sadistic yet curiously camp Colonel Graham who sends some of his men on a mission to rob Spanish gold but intends to kill them all afterwards.
Some of these men are black including Jessie (Van Peebles) and they manage to escape but Graham and his gang are behind them. However Jessie has demons from the past and rides to a town to avenge the death of his preacher father which includes the nasty sheriff (Richard Jordan.)
The film is bold, brash, anachronistic as well as a history lesson on the impact of African Americans on the western genre which has been swept under the carpet of history.
Van Peebles is doing too much and loses focus on the narrative of this film hence why the middle sags before picking up again. Some of the acting is broad The script is uneven, its over directed but Van Peebles manages to still fire the film with enough mischief and helped out by his actors such as Blair Underwood, Woody Strode, Paul Bartel, Richard Jordan and Billy Zane.