A Rage in Harlem

(Bill Duke, USA, 1991)


A Rage in Harlem is the work of a debut director (actor Bill Duke) trying to dazzle us every which way.

He certainly has the production resources and stellar cast appropriate to the task. Based on a Chester Himes novel, the film meticulously recreates a certain '50s look – mixing up realistic appearances with a flamboyant, pulp stylishness belonging to cartoons or dime novel covers.

The film is bold in its juxtapositions of drama (often luridly violent), farce and sentiment. It tells the story of stepbrothers Jackson (Forest Whitaker) and Goldy (Gregory Hines), and their entanglements with a seductive con artist (Robin Givens) and her criminal flame Slim (Badja Djola).

Situated somewhere between Porgy and Bess and a blaxploitation action film of the '70s, A Rage in Harlem flaunts its politically incorrect character stereotypes and its vicious streak – but still manages to come out a feel-good movie.

MORE Duke: The Cemetery Club, Deep Cover

© Adrian Martin June 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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