In 1857, con man Quincy Drew and his black friend Jason O'Rourke swindle slave owners into buying Jason, who's a free man, and later share the profits when Jason escapes captivity.In 1857, con man Quincy Drew and his black friend Jason O'Rourke swindle slave owners into buying Jason, who's a free man, and later share the profits when Jason escapes captivity.In 1857, con man Quincy Drew and his black friend Jason O'Rourke swindle slave owners into buying Jason, who's a free man, and later share the profits when Jason escapes captivity.
Louis Gossett Jr.
- (as Lou Gossett)
A forgotten exceptional comedy
American film critic Leonard Maltin describes Skin Game as an exceptional comedy...and I agree with him. To make a comedy focussing on two con men ripping off slave owners without regard to any-thing but making money, while at the same time satirizing American slavery is itself bold and original, especially considering the film was made in 1971. However, to make such a comedy work so smoothly and inoffensively as it does is indeed exceptional. Skin Game manages to work for a number of reasons, including because it is serious when it needs to be, complementing the humour with well-crafted dramatic moments that are firmly anchored in the plot and effectively convey the injustice and tragedy of slavery. It does this without attempting to make any grand moralizing statements that would detract from the main thrust of the story and lure the viewer into obvious sentimentalism. Furthermore, while Skin Game is first and foremost a comedy, after its two main characters end up face-to-face with the brutality of slavery, it becomes clear that the gig is up and the comedy is over. Ultimately, slavery is too horrible a business to be taken lightly and the two smart-ass cons have learned their lesson by the end of the movie. In these ways, the film can manage to be satirical and funny, while not appearing to make light of a very serious topic. It should also be mentioned that the humour is of course never directed at slavery or the slaves, but at the slave owners and their stupidly racist attitudes. Another reason why Skin Game works so well is because of the wonderful performances by its two main stars, James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. Garner is of course an expert at playing the charming and witty fast-talking rascal, and in Skin Game, he gives one of his very best performances in a comedy film (along with Support Your Local Sheriff and The Americanization of Emily). However, the film also revealed Lou Gossett Jr.'s considerable talent. In his first important role in a major film, Gossett easily holds his own against Garner. The two have strong chemistry together, constantly trying to outcon each-other and delivering their humorous lines with ease, charm and spontaneity. The humour itself is maybe not highly sophisticated or extremely funny, but it's a smart tongue-in-cheek kind of comedy that makes you regularly grin and never feels forced. Overall, Skin Game is not only an exceptional film, but an excellent one that intelligently balances comedy and drama, and develops its unusual premise in an amusing, sensitive, and unpredictable manner. It's a shame this movie is not more appreciated, though it did lead to a TV remake (Sidekicks with Gossett reprising his role and Larry Hagman replacing Garner), and other reviewers have pointed out its possible influence on Django Unchained.
- Jun 6, 2020
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