Starring MC Jean Gab’1. In French with English subtitles. Rated 14A.
Talk about your weird plot trajectories! Black begins with a botched—and brilliantly choreographed—armoured-car hijack in Paris. Then its eponymous antihero (famed rapper MC Jean Gab’1) is lured back to Dakar—a city he’s never seen before despite his Senegalese ancestry—by the promise of a major diamond heist.
Watch the trailer for Black.
Next, we enter classic ’70s blaxploitation territory, with lots of trash-talking, muscle-flexing, over-the-top acting (particularly on the part of the white villains), and intimidating eye contact. The robbery is as violent as you might expect, and Black briefly gets nabbed by a beautiful black Interpol detective (shades of Pam Grier!). At this point, things start to get really strange. Black encounters a witch doctor who had previously pronounced an impenetrable prophecy immediately prior to the opening shootout, and this French-born gangster (whom the locals often call “white boy”) gets back to his roots with a vengeance. Except for the last two minutes, the rest of the film is not what you’d expect.
This is one of those odd films that are usually described as “bad” because it’s safer than calling them good. To be sure, the English subtitles in this Pierre Laffargue feature are execrable (one-third in British English, one-third in American English, one-third in scrambled English) and parts of the film look like the worst sort of Euro trash. On the other hand, there are so many surprises in this film (the most evil presence in the neighbourhood is not the obvious suspect; three of the heroes experience ambiguous fates) and the noncheesy sequences are either superslick or even—dare I say it?—beautiful.
Thus, turning thumbs up or down on this movie would be a complete waste of time. Why? Because your opinion will change every five minutes (which is, perhaps, more than enough reason to justify its existence).