= Highest Rating
Of the many professional athletes who've taken
a shot at acting, American football legend Jim
was one of the most successful. Since I was too
young to remember his phenomenal NFL career I
know him primarily from the movies. While not
exactly the world's most gifted thespian, he excelled
at playing stoic, confident, soft-spoken tough
guys. (To me, the quintessential Jim Brown Movie
Moment comes in the 1967 action classic The
Dirty Dozen: his character's heroic grenade-tossing
sprint across the courtyard of a Nazi chateau.)
Brown appeared in a number of mainstream Hollywood
pictures during the late 1960s, such as Dark
of the Sun and 100 Rifles,
then became a blaxploitation icon the following
decade by virtue of Slaughter
and its sequel, Slaughter's
Big Rip-off. During this time he also starred
in the lesser known Black
Gunn, a gritty but formulaic urban action-drama.
Somewhat surprisingly, Columbia has issued this
forgotten blaxploitation film on DVD.
Needless to say it's quite
politically incorrect by modern standards.
Brown is Mr. Gunn (no
first name), suave proprietor of an exclusive
nightclub housed in the lower floor of his L.A.
mansion. Life is good for Gunn —
business is booming and he has a foxy, devoted
girlfriend. His only worry is his younger brother
Scotty (Herb Jefferson Jr.), a hotheaded radical
who's joined a militant Black Power revolutionary
group. The shit hits the fan when the militants,
who call their outfit the Black Action Group,
or B.A.G., rob a Mafia-owned betting parlor to
raise cash for more weapons. The Mob doesn't take
too kindly to being ripped off, but what really
has 'em steamed is that the B.A.G. men made off
with important "business" ledgers as
well. Out for blood —
and to get the books back —
the Don orders his newly appointed chief of West
Coast operations, used car salesman Russ Capelli
(Oscar winner Martin Landau of Ed
Wood), to scour the black community
and find out who pulled the heist. Capelli is
assigned a slimy, ruthless enforcer named Kriley
Forever's Bruce Glover) and a squad of goons
to provide the necessary muscle.
Naturally, Gunn's little bro
was part of the team that robbed the betting parlor.
As a favor to him, Gunn reluctantly agrees to
let Scotty temporarily stash the ledgers and part
of the stolen money is his mansion. Before Gunn
can decide on a course of action —
the feds would dearly love to get hold of the
Mob's books — Kriley's
thugs zero in on Scotty and his militant friends.
This puts them on a collision course with Gunn,
who takes a dim view of being threatened in his
own establishment. Some quick moves with a shotgun
send the mob boys packing but ultimately he's
unable to protect his brother. A dying Scotty
is later dumped on the lawn of Gunn's estate as
a warning to both him and the Black Action Group.
In his grief, Gunn vows to take apart any and
all who had a hand in his brother's murder.
But this vendetta won't be
just a one-man war against the Mob. Scotty's comrades
in B.A.G. are also keen for vengeance. So they
team up with the hard-charging Gunn to force a
the above plot synopsis you'll readily discern
that Black Gunn serves
up your basic crime/revenge formula with just
a smidgeon of extra funk. It also possesses something
of a mean streak, as personified in its two main
villains. Landau doesn't have a great deal of
screen time but when he does appear he's either
chewing out underlings in staccato gangster style
or slinging racial slurs with a wicked sneer.
Glover (father of Crispin) practically leaves
slime trails in his wake as Capelli's creepy enforcer.
A foul-mouthed bigot, Kriley delights in telling
watermelon jokes whenever he has African-Americans
at a disadvantage. One can't wait for Gunn to
pop a cap in his ass... though ironically enough,
that moment never comes. Our hero simply beats
the crap out of him instead. (Besides being evil,
Kriley is incredibly stupid. Would any sensible
person insult a guy built like Jim Brown —
to his face —
the way Kriley does in our featured audio clip?
[See the left-hand sidebar below.] I think we've
got a Darwin Award winner here!)
Gunn is 1970s action filmmaking by the
numbers. Nothing about the script or direction
is inspired. The Mob ledgers
turn out to be the most inconsequential
of McGuffins, as they're completely forgotten
once Gunn goes into revenge mode. There's nothing
special about the action scenes, either. (The
one we look forward to the most, Gunn's thrashing
of Kriley, is marred by obvious stunt doubles.)
But Brown is his usual cool self;
blaxploitation vet Bernie Casey is also on hand
as Scotty's friend and leader of the militants.
are a couple of cheesy laughs, too... When Casey
is wounded during the explosive climax, his voice
suddenly becomes very badly dubbed and that of
an 80 year old man! And check out the goofy heroin
junkie in the bowling alley. Where'd they get
Poindexter on smack!
TriStar's DVD is strictly no-frills. At least
the print they used is in decent shape, without
any noticeable blemishes or damage. (It's letterboxed
at 1.85:1.) The flat-sounding mono audio track
does no favors to the music or sound effects but
dialog is clear and always understandable. The
disc offers a few promos for other Columbia releases
no one really cares about. The trailer for Black
Gunn is conspicuous in its absense.