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BLACK GUNN (1972).

In the early days of blaxploitation, football great Jim Brown was one of its first superstars, combining muscles and class into a two-fisted, charismatic leading man. In the '60s, studios tried to turn Brown into a crossover commodity with roles in THE DIRTY DOZEN and ICE STATION ZEBRA. But by the '70s, he was lending her persona to more grindhouse-destined fare, like SLAUGHTER, THREE THE HARD WAY and this funky little yarn. The plot is set in motion when a Mob-run bookie joint is ripped off by a bunch of masked Brothers (discontented Nam vets who are "takin' it to The Man"). Enter Jim, who plays the filthy rich owner of Gunn's Club -- a swanky L.A. nightspot for the black cognoscenti. Things begin to simmer when Gunn's brother Scotty shows up after the heist, loaded with the stolen cash as well as the syndicate's Pay-Off Journals, which sends a barrage of hitmen after the "spook" perpetrators and has the city's corrupt politicians shitting their pants. But it's not until Scotty gets rubbed out and left on Gunn's doorstep one morning that our hero blows a gasket and takes the law into his own hands (with the aid of some new Black Panther-esque pals). Sure, the story is cheesy and director Robert Hartford-Davis (THE BLOODSUCKERS) is a total hack, but the flick makes up for it with a tough veneer, eye-popping fashions (check out Gunn's red and black tux!), and loads of whacked supporting actors. We get throwaway appearances from sports pals Deacon Jones and Vida Blue; babes Brenda Sykes and Luciana Paluzzi; and Bernie Casey (DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE) as a maxi-afro'ed militant. Martin Landau even turns up as gangster Riff Capelli, and as if being a sadistic mob boss wasn't a sleazy enough occupation, he's also a used car salesman to boot! Then there's Bruce Glover, playing one of the craziest honky weasels in Deuce history -- threatening to send one Brother to "the great Watermelon Patch in the sky" and proving he's twice as nuts as his son, Crispin. Meanwhile, Jim is so fucking cool that you can ignore the fact that nobody north of 110th Street should give a rat's ass about his pampered, mansioned lifestyle. And when was the last time you saw a high speed chase featuring a white Rolls Royce? It's these touches that make this otherwise predictable actioner worth searching out.

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.