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"Posse"- {Blu-ray}
Daniel Ruwe
Studio: MGM
Release Date:
Special Features:

See Below


Posse isnít a horrible movie, but it is a frustrating one. Itís a revisionist Western in the Peckinpah tradition about a team of black drifters making their way across the West fighting off racists. Itís directed by Mario Van Peebles, who at the time (1993) was coming off of New Jack City, a modern ďblaxpoiltationĒ movie that had gotten generally favorable reviews. Westerns had a brief comeback in the early nineties (Unforgiven, Tombstone), and a revisionist Western directed by Van Peebles must have seemed like a good idea. ***

The storyline here is one reason it wasnít. The story opens in Cuba, where Billy Zaneís evil white Colonel Graham (pay attention here), sends Jesse Leeís (Mario Van Peebles) all black cavalry unit undercover to steal some Cuban gold in order to have the chance to massacre them all as deserters. ***

The plan doesnít work, and the gang moves across the West with the gold, fighting off various racists (and there are a lot of them; in addition to Colonel Graham, the guys have to fight off some corrupt sheriffs and the Ku Klux Klan), and trying to make it to Freemanville, an endangered utopia for freed slaves. ***

Thatís probably not the strongest story ever, but then it definitely isnít the weakest, and might have worked had Van Peebles not felt the need to overdo everything that could be overdone. The camera canít stay still; neither, apparently, could the editor, who seems to have limited himself to maybe four second a shot, max. Nothing ever stands stillóthe camera flies around in circles, objects fly towards the audience, the camera jumps around. ***


The cameos can be distracting in the same way. Van Peebles seems to have wanted to squeeze in as many black actors (including Blair Underwood, Isaac Hayes, Nipsey Russell, Pam Grier, Aaron Neville and the Hudlin brothers) as possible, which means that there are lots of characters, few of whom get any development at all. Pam Greir, for example, is a really talented actress (watch her in Tarantinoís Jackie Brown, filmed a couple of years later), but her role in the movie consists of only a few lines; essentially just a cameo. ***

The overabundance of actors is frustrating because the casting is generally pretty good. Van Peebles, rapper Big Daddy Kane, and Stephen Baldwin are all pretty good, and the villains are all suitably villainous. Most if not all of the actors do a decent jobóthere are just about twice as many of them as the story needs. ***

Van Peebles closes his film by reminding the audience that there an estimated eight thousand black cowboys in the West, who have been almost entirely neglected by the Western genre. Woody Strode (one of the few black actors to appear in fifties and sixties Westerns) gets a nice cameoóit is his reminisces that frame the movie. ***

There is a place for a movie about the African-American role in creating the West. This movie isnít it. On the other hand, in the fifteen or so years since it came out that movie hasnít been made, and while Posse is far from perfect it does provide a fun one hundred minutes. ***

Image and Sound:

The new Blu-Ray version of the movie looks really good, with an ATC endcoded 2:35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The color looks good, and the detail is really outstanding, much better than the DVD. ***

The film sounds good too. The gunshots have some real punch, and the dialogue is easy to hear. There are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and other languages. ***

Special Features:

Aside from the theatrical trailer, there arenít any extras on the Blu-Ray release. ***

Final Words:

This isnít a great movie, and it has some major flaws. But it is an interesting and unique one, and is never boring. It looks good, and if it isnít a great Western, youíll still have a good time watching it.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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