Original Gangstas

on May 10, 1996 by Dwayne E. Leslie
   Just when you thought your "blaxploitation" collection was complete, the stars of those '70s offerings are back. For the first time, Fred Williamson ("Hell Up in Harlem"), Jim Brown ("Three the Hard Way"), Pam Grier ("Foxy Brown"), Ron O'Neal ("Super Fly") and Richard Roundtree ("Shaft") join forces to dispense their own form of street justice. It's up to the '70s Gangstas to stop a '90s clique of gangbanging dope-dealers from terrorizing a community.
   "Original Gangstas" pays homage to the old school while being injected with a dose of the new. The film is loosely based on Williamson's childhood experiences and reiterates the message that communities need unity to survive. But the film is really just a facsimile; it's as campy and low-budget as those made two decades ago. Although the leads are intended to be cool and menacing, the result resembles parody; scenes of drugs, guns and fights are likely to make audiences burst out in laughter. The film's best element is the soundtrack, which mixes '70s R&B with today's hip-hop and rap. (Smooth R&B plays for the good guys, the rowdier stuff for the bad guys.) Old-school fans will at least like the actors; for the younger generation, there's the music and seeing some of today's up-and-coming rap stars on the big screen.    Starring Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Pam Grier, Ron O'Neal and Richard Roundtree. Directed by Larry Cohen. Written by Aubrey Rattan. Produced by Fred Williamson. An Orion release. Action/drama. Rated R for non-stop violence and pervasive strong language. Running time: 99 min.
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