“Black Caesar” is a quintessential film of the Blaxploitation genre initiated by Melvin Van Peebles’ “Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song” in 1971. Former pro NFL football player Fred Williamson plays Tommy Gibbs, a former Harlem shoeshine boy who turns the tables on his corrupt Manhattan environment by blackmailing the ruling powers with log books listing the illicit financial entanglements of city and police officials. Writer/director Larry Cohen (“Hell Up In Harlem”) pulls out all the stops in making the story resonate as a ghetto homage to gangster films of the ‘30s. “Black Caesar” is packed with pathos, gunfire, and a climactic Times Square chase scene that rivals some big budget Hollywood efforts. The movie is a distinctive pastiche of the tough cynical attitudes held by oppressed minorities the world over. It's heavy baby.
Rated R. 94 mins. (B) (Three Stars)
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