Directed by: Mario Van Peebles Cast: Mario Van Peebles, Stephen Baldwin, Tone Loc, Big Daddy Kane, Billy Zane, Charles Lane, Blair Underwood, Isaac Hayes, Pam Grier Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins Rating: R Due Out: June 7, 2011
PLOT: A group of interracial cowboys leave the Spanish-American War in Cuba in hopes of finding the person who lynched their leader's father.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Fans of cowboys and outlaws who don't mind the mediocre films that sometimes heavily populate the western genre. If you're looking for a lot of shooting action, you'd best look elsewhere. If you want to see Tone "Bust A Move" Loc attempt to be a cowboy alongside Big Daddy Kane, Posse might make for a satisfying viewing.
Posse plays into the simpler aspects of the western genre, while working with a mindful of racial messages. Director Van Peebles ponders the lack of celebration of the thousands of black cowboys who fought against stupid laws (the “Grandfather Clause”) and brought their own sense of outlaw justice. Yet by trying to remind the western legacy of its forgotten black cowboys, he fails to present them with a special story. Posse might leave more of a mark if it were better than a fairly insignificant early John Wayne feature.
A big problem with Posse is that it embraces clichés of the genre as if they hadn’t been worn down by numerous westerns before it. With its constant visuals of elements like saloons and sunsets, Posse starts to look like any other film of its kind. This aspect certainly isn’t assisted by the violence in the film, which recalls simple “bang, bang, shoot ‘em up” action than smooth exciting gunplay. A “good guy” will fire a gun (regardless as to whether they appear like they would have good aim), and the bad guy will fall to the ground or off their horse in a phony way.
Equally flat to the visuals and are the performances. Van Peebles lazily cribs from the notes on scowling, as written by the greats, and instead looks even more like a wannabe. Its cold staring without any attitude, or underlying emotional mystery. Especially here, Van Peebles proves himself to be a few charismatic notches short of being a true, watchable action star.
Often wandering in search of an exciting story, Posse is most valuable when discussing its racial aspects, which stands as educational and also somewhat special. Other than that, Van Peebles' passionate subject feels underwhelming by its lack of any true or fresh western grit.
MOVIE SCORE: 3/10