“I know it’s a rotten game; it’s the only one the Man left us to play.”
A successful coke dealer (Ron O’Neal) in Harlem decides to quit the business by making one final deal worth a million dollars — but his partner (Carl Lee) isn’t sure he’s ready to stop dealing.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- African Americans
- Drug Dealers
- New York City
Drenched in the sounds of a groovy Curtis Mayfield soundtrack, this enjoyable Blaxploitation flick (helmed by first-time director Gordon Parks, Jr.) received positive reviews upon its release, and has held up surprisingly well; as noted in the Total Film review (see link below), it’s “far easier to dig than the previous year’s Shaft” (another milestone in the genre). These days, given Quentin Tarantino’s glorification of dealers and gangsters as hopelessly hip, it’s easy to accept Priest as a viable protagonist, someone we want to root for despite his questionable lifestyle. O’Neal — a stage-trained actor — has much to do with the film’s overall success; his performance is spot-on. While the story starts to lag about 2/3rds of the way through, the remainder of the scenes are shot with skill and energy, making this an exciting journey back to 1970s Harlem.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Ron O’Neal as Priest
- Effective use of gritty Harlem streets
- Nate Adams’ flamboyant ’70s outfits
- The Curtis Mayfield Experience performing “Pusherman”
- Several exciting action sequences
- The controversial “coke montage” (photographed by Gordon Parks, Sr.)
- The surprisingly satisfying ending
- Curtis Mayfield’s funky score
Yes, for its status as a seminal Blaxploitation flick. Listed as a cult movie in the back of Peary’s book.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)