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Friday, June 21, 2013

Gang Related (1997)



















Starring:
  • Tupac Shakur
  • James Belushi
  • Lela Rochon
IMDB.com
Two corrupt cops murder an undercover DEA agent by mistake, and frantically try to cover their tracks by framing a homeless man for the crime. That involves juggling evidence, coaching witnesses, and improvising to keep their desperate scheme from unraveling.

Detectives Divinci and Rodriguez are crooked cops involved in dealing drugs and murdering the competition. When one of their victims turns out to be an undercover DEA agent, they are put on the case to find the murderer. With DEA agent Richard Simms desperate to get the killer, Divinci and Rodriguez realize that they have to frame someone else for the crime. Settling on homeless man 'Joe', they give him drink, get him to sign a statement and falsify the evidence to make a strong enough case to convict.

I had half wanted to see this film for a few years simply because I am keen to take the few chances I have to try see Tupac acting – for me he was the savior of Poetic Justice and he is much better than the vast majority of the hip hop 'actors' we have seen recently. The plot here is pretty much a standard thriller plot based around two dirty cops and, although it lacks real flair or imagination, it still manages to do its job and be an enjoyable and occasionally quite gritty little thriller. It could have done with a greater sense of tension though, for the majority of the time it merely unfolds as opposed to being fast paced or very exciting but it is still an enjoyable enough little film even if it pretty much goes where you expect it to.

The cast is a big factor in making this film more interesting and making it rise above the other genre films that it will be competing with on the bottom shelf. Belushi has been in more than his fair share of sh*t video thrillers but here he is actually quite good and seems comfortable with material that, although not great, is certainly nowhere near the low level that he is getting used to. In his last film, Tupac is great and he should be a role model for all hip hop stars who want to act – even just in the choice of role he gives a great example – can you imagine many other rappers playing a corrupt cop with as little glamor as Tupac had? Snoop is a fine example, his last few roles have been versions of the caricature he plays in his music and many other rappers do the same – trading on their image rather than acting. Tupac is far from his gangsta image and he delivers a very down to earth performance – as with several other of his films he made this better by his presence. The gorgeous Lela Rochon is given an eye candy role at the start but she is able enough to make a good performance out of it (as well as having a body and looks to die for!). The smaller roles add the feeling of cast depth even if some of them add little else. Quaid for example has so little to do you wonder why he bothered – he feels like he should be a bigger part of the film but he isn't. For the opposite reason Jones, Cole and Paymer are all quite good because they are minor roles and they just feel like quality padding.

Overall this is not a particularly earth shattering thriller but it does its job well enough and I found it pretty enjoyable. A well-known cast certainly helps to make the material rise slightly above the rest of its genre but it is a great performance by Tupac in a different role that made it for me; if only other rappers were less afraid of their image when making role choices then we may not be experiencing a wave of awful blaxploitation films all over again.

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