Tuesday, September 18, 2018

In short: Posse (1993)

Instead of dead as their evil commander Colonel Graham (Billy Zane) had hoped, a group of African American soldiers (Charles Lane, Tiny Lister, and Tone Loc, plus !bonus Stephen Baldwin) under the leadership of Jesse Lee (Mario Van Peebles) escape the Spanish-American war very much alive and in possession of the rather large amount of gold the good Colonel wanted them to steal and then kill them for. The group leaves the Colonel behind for dead after a fight, but he and a group of gunmen will start to follow our protagonists’ every move soon enough.

As if having these particular hellhounds on their trails isn’t bad enough, Jesse Lee, prone to random flashbacks only missing the harmonica, has some vengeance to seek in and around his hometown, which isn’t conducive to anyone’s health.

As likeable as I find the attempt of the group of filmmakers around people like Posse’s director Mario Van Peebles and the Hughes Brothers to create a new African American genre cinema with a degree of social consciousness on decent budgets, as frustrating I usually find the resulting films. As is typically the case with this group of movies, it’s not the film’s cast, consisting of a whole bunch of good younger actors and a plethora of veterans and heroes of cinema like Pam Grier or Mario Van Peebles’s father Melvin, at fault here, nor are the production values the problem. It is rather the combination of a pretty terrible script, one so unfocused you seem to drift from one film to the next while making your way through Posse, and a director heavily in love with all kinds of pointless visual stylization taken in equal parts from Leone and video clips without much of an idea of how to put all the camera and post-production tricks into the service of the film instead of the other way round. I do suspect most of the time the reason for all the film’s visual busyness is the assumption it looks cool, no matter if it actually does anything useful for the film at all.

Posse is a meandering mess, wasting a bunch of great actors and a genuinely great initial idea for nothing much.

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