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A Rage In Harlem Review

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Arriving in Harlem having stolen her lover's money, Robin Givens' femme fatale hustles Forest Whitaker's wimpy undertaker as well as crime lord Danny Glover, until her peeved boyfriend shows up looking for his stolen loot.

★★★★★

Adapted from a toothsome Chester Himes tale of a duplicitous dame hiding out in the Harlem of the mid-50s with a fortune in stolen gold, Rage has much going for it, but seldom rises to the promise of its potentially atmospheric setting and rich characters.

Robin Givens is suitably seductive as slinky, conniving Imabelle, on the run from her former lover and partner in crime, an extremely nasty piece of work whose way with a knife is sick-makingly demonstrated in the opening scene. For safety while she's wheeling and dealing with horny hoods she catches in her web the innocent Jackson (Whitaker), a sweet, shy undertaker, availing herself of his bed, his devotion and his life savings. Jackson seems to be the only person in Harlem not engaged in the numbers racket, transvestitism or prostitution. Around the odd couple swirl hustlers, hoodlems, harlots and moronic cops, among them some chronically bad actors and a few pros like Gregory Hines as Jackson's small-time con-artist brother and Danny Glover in a virtual cameo as a dapper Mr. Big, who just about save the day. It's largely a cheap looking, tawdry affair, with tortuous interludes in which the humour devolves on gratuitous unpleasantness or tired old bad jokes at the expense of women, punctuated with more "Fuck yous" than an Eddie Murphy movie. The best laugh in this poor comic thriller comes when one of the several killers on offer attempts to effect an escape by holding Glover's pampered pekingese hostage, and there's a jaw-dropping stage appearance from Screamin' Jay Hawkins that is a treat.

Rage is not as good or as pacey as the much earlier Himes adaptation Cotton Comes To Harlem, but Whitaker in cuddly lovestruck mode is at least endearing and Givens in her very non-50s KnickerBox tanga and bustier is undeniably an eyeful for the boys.

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