Stylishly directed by Bill Duke, with screenplay by John Toles-Bey and Bobby Crawford based on Chester Himes novel "For the Love of Imabelle". Beautiful cinematography by Toyomichi Kurita. Music by Elmer Bernstein and Jeff Vincent. The film looks great thanks to the Production Design by Steven Legler, Art Direction by Nina Ruscio and Set Decoration by K.C. Fox.
Title Sequence illustrating The Harlem Renaissance
A Rage In Harlem stars a large ensemble cast, Forest Whitaker, Gregory Hines, Robin Givens, Zakes Mokae, Danny Glover, Badja Djola, John Toles-Bey, Tyler Collins, Ron Taylor, Stack Pierce, Claude X, Reynaldo Rey, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, George Wallace and many many more.
|Imabelle (Givens) Jackson (Whitaker)|
|Easy Money (Glover)|
|Big Kathy (Mokae)|
|Blind Man (Rey) Claude X (Pugh)|
|Gravedigger (Wallace) lt. Coffin Ed (Pierce) rt.|
This film is loosely based on Chester Himes first "Harlem Cycle" novel "For The Love of Imabelle" The novel (I haven't read it yet so this is from various reviews) is basically about Jackson who works for an undertaker and his scheming girlfriend Imabelle who sets him up in a confidence scam run by Imabelle's common law husband, the gang leader Slim. Jackson gets his brother Goldie, another con artist and police stoolie to get cops Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones to track down his girlfriend and the money.
|Imabelle arrives at the Fleabag Hotel|
|Jackson saying his prayers|
Imabelle's seduction of Jackson
When Slim and his Mississippi gang show up all hell breaks loose between them, the Harlem hoodies. and the two NYPD detectives Coffin Ed (Pierce) and Gravedigger Jones (Wallace).
It takes it's place alongside other Noir-ish comedies, spoofs, and satires, i.e., Delicatessen (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Seven Beauties (1975), After Hours (1985), Barton Fink (1991), Pennies From Heaven (1981), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), Something Wild (1986), Serial Mom (1994)
On the plus side the film is very stylistic, homaging both Film Noir and The Harlem Renaissance artwork of Archibald Motley and others, it's beautiful to look at. It does NOIR better than it's companion piece Devil With A Blue Dress (1995). An extra bonus is the performance by Screamin Jay Hawkins at the Undertaker's Ball. Cincinnati Ohio's Over-The-Rhine neighborhood fills in nicely for 1950's Harlem.
The screencaps are from the Echo Bridge Home Entertainment DVD. could have been even better, 7/10.