Cool Breeze (1972)
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The 1950 John Huston movie "The Asphalt Jungle" was to me an unexpected brilliant movie. It's one of the best crime/film-noir's I've ever seen. I therefor also didn't expected much from this blaxploitation version of the same movie but I have to admit that the movie simply turned out to be a great one.
Main reason why this movie works out so well is of course its story. No matter how you turn and change things around, the story, based on the W.R. Burnett novel remains a great and well layered one, with good characters in it. It's one of those movies that is not particularly well directed or acted out but lets its story allow the movie to be a great one.
Also the atmosphere of the movie was good. It was of course not a film-noir type of typical atmosphere but '70's blaxploitation also always have a typical and good 'hip cat' atmosphere of their own, which I always enjoy, no matter how bad the movie. It also makes sure that you'll take the movie too seriously. You also really shouldn't take this movie too seriously and you should take the movie with a grain of salt. I was actually surprised by the amount of comical relief within this movie, mainly because the original story is such an original and heavy one but it of course certainly makes this movie an enjoyable movie to watch and it definitely works out well for the movie as a whole.
Really, you should give this movie a chance.
Released from jail, master criminal Sidney Lord Jones (what a "street" name!) heads to LA. During his time in jail,Jones read magazines about diamonds ,which gave him the idea of planning a diamond heist,so that Jones can set up a "black bank",which will give affordable loans to African Americans.
Meeting underground bookie Finian and his major "financer" Bill Mercer,Jones reveals that he needs $50,000 in order to hire the best team for the heist.Keeping the fact that he is almost broke hidden from view,Mercer agrees to fund the robbery,whilst making secret plans to keep the diamonds all for himself.As Jones and the rest of the team start robbing the diamonds,they discover that Mercer has ruthless plans of his own.
View on the film:
Before I get to the movie,I have to mention that Warner Archives have given the title a very good transfer,with the audio being clear and easy to hear,whilst the picture is clean,but still retaining the gritty flavour of the film.
Keeping Solomon Burke's smooth jangly Funk score humming in the background,writer/director Barry Pollack gives the title an extraordinary rustic atmosphere,with Pollack following each gang member with hand-held whip-pans that give the film an almost documentary appearance.Along with the shot gun whip-pans,Pollack also slices Neo-Noir tension through a Blaxploitation filter,by covering the movie in ultra-stylised,low-lit primary colours,which heat up as tension starts to build between the gang.
Whilst the guys dominate the movie,the very sexy Pam Grier (who also appears naked) stands out in her small role as Mona,with Grier clear unease being the first shot of doubt to hit any of the gang members.Entering the film dancing out of jail, Thalmus Rasulala gives an excellent performance as Sidney Lord Jones,who Rasulala wraps up in silky-smooth Blaxploitation charm,which becomes brittle,as the fall out from the robbery leads to Rasulala transforming Jones into a Film Noir loner. Joining Rasulala, Julian Christopher gives a wonderful performance as Travis Battle,who Christopher gives a hard thug edge which never fits in with the socially savvy skills of Jones & Mercer.
Bringing The Asphalt Jungle into "the hood",the screenplay by Barry Pollack surprisingly does not pay much attention to the rehearsals of the robbery,with Pollack moving from the formation of the team straight to the robbery.Whilst sadly missing out on building anticipation for the robbery,Pollack makes up for it by making the robbery a thrilling set-piece,which sets each of the gang up for a Neo-Noir final note.Making sure that the title does not solely hang on the robbery,Pollack gives each of the gang members distinctive introductions,with Jones movie star sheen rubbing against Travis battered & bruised street fighter,as they both enter the deadly Blaxploitation Asphalt Jungle.