A Rage In Harlem Review

Optimum release Bill Duke’s highly entertaining gangster movie. Mike Sutton takes a look.

Imabelle, played by the once-promising Robin Givens, is a gangster’s mistress who uses a messy shootout as a cover for stealing a large amount of loot from her paramour, Easy Money (Danny Glover). She winds up in Harlem where she becomes involved with a decent, naive Christian boy called Jackson (Forrest Whittaker) who falls madly in love with her. Unsurprisingly, however, their developing relationship is interrupted when the mob come looking for the money.

A Rage In Harlem isn’t much more than a picaresque crime romp but it’s well acted, wittily scripted and oozes 1950s period flavour. The main problem with it is an uncertainty of tone throughout – the rather touching central love story doesn’t gel at all well with the graphic violence and a nasty scene at the beginning may well have more sensitive viewers reaching for the off switch.

However, the performances are everything they should be. Robin Givens is suitably sultry but also shows notable comic timing and Forrest Whittaker is simply brilliant. There’s a great array of supporting players to look at too, amongst whom the wonderful Gregory Hines stands out as Jackson’s shady brother. I should also mention Zakes Mokae who has surely never looked quite like this before or since. As long as you can stomach some quite brutal violence, this is a very entertaining movie which pushes most of the right buttons.

Optimum’s pleasing DVD of the film offers a pleasingly crisp and clean anamorphic transfer, framed at 1.85:1, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There are no extras; nor, regrettably, are there any subtitles.

Mike Sutton

Updated: Sep 07, 2009

Get involved
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum
A Rage In Harlem Review | The Digital Fix