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  Mack, The Return Of The Mack
Year: 1973
Director: Michael Campus
Stars: Max Julien, Don Gordon, Richard Pryor, Carol Speed, Roger E. Mosley, William Watson, George Murdock, Juanita Moore, Paul Harris, Kai Hernandez, Annazette Chase, Junero Jennings, Lee Duncan
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's 1967, and player Goldie (Max Julien) is having a bad night, what with getting involved in a gunfight in a junkyard that ends with him attempting to escape only to have his car overturn and leave him injured. The racist cops who were part of the gunplay stand over him and muse on whether to kill him or call an ambulance; they call and ambulance and Goldie spends the next five years in a miserable jail cell. When he finally gets out, he returns to his old haunts in Oakland hoping to pick up the pieces of his life, and ends up in the local bar talking with a high up gangster who tells him that he should try his hand at pimping. Then and there Goldie makes up his mind to not only be a pimp, but to be the best there ever was...

Nowadays there's a danger of looking back on the blaxploitation movies of the nineteen-seventies as a kind of outrageous, action-packed camp, but by no means were they all like that. Some were influenced by the success of Shaft, but others, and this includes The Mack, took their guidance from the likes of Superfly. Scripted by Robert Poole, reputedly while in prison, here is the story of a pimp with little over-the-top or shrilly humorous, a film that begs to be taken seriously as a realistic depiction of not only the dilemma of whether to grow up and be a success in the life of crime or to take the straight and narrow path and possibly be exploited.

Goldie has a brother, Olinga (Roger E. Mosley), who preaches black power and is an upstanding member of the community. He's pleased to see him out of jail, but wants nothing to do with the pimping life; Goldie's mother (Juanita Moore) is pleased to see him as well, but likewise is not impressed with his choices - later we see Goldie in a church, remembering his childhood at one of the sermons that seemed so inspirational back then. But he has made his decision, and after hooking up with an old friend, Lulu (Carol Speed), he realises he has found the first, well, hooker for his new "family", as he terms them.

Although there is humour (that great dialogue!), The Mack prefers to concentrate on the drama. Richard Pryor plays Slim (perhaps a reference to Iceberg Slim, an obvious influence on the movie?), Goldie's right hand man, and although he has an amusing demeanour he's pretty much acting straight here (well, coked up and straight) - you can see the roots of his soon-to-be ground-breaking standup in his character. Cynically funny bits feature Goldie throwing a weasely, cackling hood into a dumpster, or torturing a rival by placing him in the back of his car along with a few rats - at least he drops him off at the hospital afterwards. And the "Player of the Year" scene - filmed at the real event - can't have been lost on the makers of I'm Gonna Git You Sucka!, or so it appears.

But The Mack requires a more sober response, and we see how the basically decent Goldie is corrupted by his new life (never mind the women he uses: witness the planetarium hypnosis sequence), yet not only that, but also how the society around him leaves him in conflict. The cops are racist, and involved with the crime as well, making money from drugs as much as the criminals, even as Goldie has dreams of using his new influence to clean up the neighbourhood. The film is better as a series of vignettes than a smoothly flowing narrative, but this episodic nature enhances the grittiness of the low budget, and when tragedy strikes our anti-hero the themes are predictably moral. Goldie may have wanted to see himself as a successful businessman in his field, and there is a well-rounded look at the way of life of the pimp here, but it all brings him down in the end. Excellent music by Willie Hutch.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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