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      Original Gangstas

      R Released May 10, 1996 1 hr. 38 min. Action List
      53% 15 Reviews Tomatometer 48% 1,000+ Ratings Audience Score Successful Los Angeles football coach John Bookman (Fred Williamson) returns home to Gary, Ind., when his father is murdered. Discovering the town overrun with violent street gangs, John is even more horrified to learn his father was shot by a member of the Rebels, a gang John himself helped form in his youth. John teams up with Jake (Jim Brown) and Laurie (Pam Grier), the parents of a boy who was also killed by a Rebel, to organize their neighborhood against gang violence. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Premiered Oct 17 Buy Now

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      Audience Reviews

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      Audience Member "During the four or five weeks we were in Gary, no crime. The day after we left, it started again. Ten days later, it was so bad they had to send in the national guard. They were killing each other right and left. When we were there? Nothing." — Larry Cohen Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/30/23 Full Review Audience Member Pretty disappointing. Especially coming from such an interesting director as Cohen. It's very cheap and amateur looking, like most quick DTV movies from the 90s. Hollow, boring characters with terrible acting. And it totally wastes the marquee. The opportunity to make a cool Expendables type of flick with all these classic blaxsploitation actors could've been so much fun, but the ball was dropped. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review Audience Member Fred Williamson is the worst fighter ever :) Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Audience Member A lot of fun, never really gets great, but gets damn good. I can't imagine it having much appeal if you don't love these actors like I do Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Audience Member "Original Gangstas" is like an unnecessary Billy Joel greatest hits compilation: wonderfully escapist, fond of grand gestures, and a little on the cheesy side. With enough guts to titularly pronounce "gangsters" with the street toughness of the Notorious B.I.G., the film is appeasing but not completely necessary. It is a comeback special for blaxploitation's biggest stars (including Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Ron O'Neal, and Richard Roundtree), harkening back to the good old days of 1970s-based cinematic black liberation, spruced up to modern standards only when need be. There is no such thing as a blaxploitation masterpiece (such ideas exclusively work in the mindset of one film being better than another), and "Original Gangstas" doesn't much change the argument. But for fans of the genre, it will certainly work as a filling, if forgettable, treat. Like in all blaxploitation features, the ghetto is once again being disturbed by forces beyond the control of everyday citizens, this time the ghetto being set in Gary, Indiana, the forces being the Rebels, a cold-blooded gang. Most attempt to deal with them like cows deal with flies - to stand up and fight back wouldn't do much good. But that all changes when Kenny Thompson (Timothy Lewis), a well-liked local teen, is murdered in a drive-by shooting; enough becomes enough, with former Rebel John Bookman (Fred Williamson) teaming up with local brave hearts (including Kenny's mother, played by an always welcome Grier) to stage a massive set-up of retribution. I've seen only a few blaxploitation movies, most of them starring Grier ("Coffy," "Foxy Brown"), some O'Neal ("Superfly"), and "Original Gangstas" works as an accurate continuation of the genre, capturing the recurring themes of badass vigilantism and street-side cool without breaking much of a sweat. Even the more minuscule features are there, like the way Kenny's funeral is soundtracked by the cringeworthy genre touch of a song whose lyrics directly (and unsubtly) reflect the situation at hand, or how the villains are so decked out in sociopathic swagger that we can't help but stay on the side of the dudes who aren't so blatantly over-the-top. But the film's entertainment factor doesn't have much to do with technical familiarity - it has to do with the emotional familiarity of seeing most of the blaxploitation greats in the same room, reliving their glory days one final time. Williamson is just as convincing of a hero as he was during his youth, Grier even better as a Coffy twenty-something years later, still tough-as-nails but more noticeably hardened, smoothed out by the love that comes with motherhood. "Original Gangstas" isn't a great film, no, but it derives a certain satisfaction from its reunion-based thrills. Cinematic eras never die so long as they're kept in our hearts, and the film is one of the few examples of a relatively unknown subgenre creeping out of its coffin in order to attain just one more moment. And that's enough for me. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/03/23 Full Review Audience Member This is a good movie. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 01/23/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Cast & Crew

      Critics Reviews

      View All (15) Critics Reviews
      Anne Billson Daily Telegraph (UK) This is solid action fare with saggy bits, but there's enough ass-kicking, Molotov cocktail-throwing and gunfire to keep their erstwhile fans amused, and the screenplay cleverly knits the old traditions of Shaft together with Boyz 'n' the Hood. Nov 27, 2017 Full Review Kevin Thomas Los Angeles Times Original Gangstas leaves you feeling that more could have been made of this 'blaxploitation' reunion, but it's not bad -- and no more and no less substantial than the films of the original cycle. Rated: 3/5 Feb 14, 2001 Full Review Susan Stark Detroit News Think Boyz N the Hood meets The Mod Squad. Rated: 3/4 Jan 1, 2000 Full Review Sheila Reid Women in the Life It's good to see the stars from those 70’s “black exploitation” blockbusters working again, even if it is naïve to believe they can come back 20 years later and wipe out today’s dope dealers. May 31, 2022 Full Review Chuck O'Leary Fantastica Daily Rated: 2/5 Oct 9, 2005 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Rated: 2/5 Jul 21, 2005 Full Review Read all reviews

      Movie Info

      Synopsis Successful Los Angeles football coach John Bookman (Fred Williamson) returns home to Gary, Ind., when his father is murdered. Discovering the town overrun with violent street gangs, John is even more horrified to learn his father was shot by a member of the Rebels, a gang John himself helped form in his youth. John teams up with Jake (Jim Brown) and Laurie (Pam Grier), the parents of a boy who was also killed by a Rebel, to organize their neighborhood against gang violence.
      Director
      Larry Cohen
      Executive Producer
      Wolf Schmidt
      Screenwriter
      Aubrey K. Rattan
      Distributor
      Orion Pictures
      Production Co
      Po' Boy Productions
      Rating
      R
      Genre
      Action
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      May 10, 1996, Original
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Sep 30, 2016
      Box Office (Gross USA)
      $3.3M
      Sound Mix
      Stereo, Surround
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