Black Caesar (1973)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Blaxploitation, Crime Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 7, 1973 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This blaxploitation favorite delivers all the colorful action that fans of the genre crave as well as some surprisingly intense drama. Larry Cohen's script, which is loosely modeled on the gangster classic Little Caesar, delivers shootouts and fisticuffs galore, but devotes just as much time to exploring what pushed its driven main character into crime. Fred Williamson lives up to the character of Tommy Gibbs by delivering a performance that is charismatic and frighteningly fiery all at once. Other memorable performers include Julius Harris, who brings a genuine sense of regret to his role as Gibb's estranged father, and Art Lund, who delivers a skin-crawlingly sleazy performance as the hero's corrupt policeman nemesis. Black Caesar also benefits from some dollops of sly humor that temper its dramatic edge, the best example being an attack on a mob family which starts out with Godfather-styled music that soon gives way to hard-driving funk as Gibbs and his men attack. Unfortunately, Black Caesar suffers from technical rough edges; some of its special effects are less than convincing and the story becomes a bit too rushed as it attempts to tie up its loose ends in the last half hour. Despite these problems, Black Caesar's sense of conviction and kinetic energy pull it through. The film's gritty appeal is capped by a solid soul music score from James Brown, that is highlighted by the harrowing theme song "Down and Out in New York City." In short, Black Caesar is one of the true highlights of the blaxploitation genre and well worth the time for cult movie fans.