Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Shit, Man

‘Black Gunn’ was reprobate director Robert Hartford-Davis’ first American film (he'd quit the UK after the ‘Nobody Ordered Love’ debacle, remember?), and it’s an undemanding and uninspiring slice of blaxploitation (I had to watch it twice for the purpose of this review, as I couldn’t remember anything from the first viewing).

Heavyset former American Football star Jim Brown plays Gunn, one of those ridiculous wish fulfilment characters that crop up in action film scripts like this: he’s rich and well-connected, a pillar of the community; he has a nightclub in the basement of his mansion; he drives women wild, and he’s deadly when crossed.

The only problem Gunn has in his ridiculously perfect world is his younger brother, Scotty, a Black Panther who is obsessed with sticking it to The Man. When Scotty and his angry beret wearing pals rob a mob fronted business things go heavy at the bottom and tapered at the top: Scotty winds up dead and dumped on his brother’s lawn, so Gunn loads up his shotgun, flexes his big fists and gets ready to kick some Mafioso arse.

Brown is his usual quiet, capable self, but the best characters are in support, like supercool Bernie Casey (no man ever wore an afro like Bernie), Oscar winning Martin Landau (as a bad ass mob boss) and the deeply creepy Bruce Glover (Crispin’s Dad) as an incredibly repellent and racist hit man. The whole undertaking is rather low key and by the numbers, but then presumably Hartford-Davis was trying to prove himself professionally so reined in his natural impulse for sleaze and shock. The action sequences are okay, but marred by obvious stand ins. The climactic confrontation between Gunn & the hit man is a real disappointment, firstly because he doesn’t kill the creepy bastard and secondly because the two men fighting are quite clearly not Jim Brown and Bruce Glover.

In the end analysis, ‘Black Gunn’ is competent, professional and, by Hartford-Davis standards, relatively tasteful and restrained. Oh, Robert, Bob, Bobby, what went wrong?

Here’s the wonkily synched clip in which Gunn’s brother meets his end. It’s notable for this eloquent, moving exchange between the brothers as they say their final farewell.

Sonny: ‘I can't believe this shit. Oh Man, this shit has taken me out, man’.

Gunn: ‘Shit’.

It's rather beautiful.

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