"If Christ knew what kind of Christians He got here in Harlem, He'd climb back up on the Cross and start over." The screenwriters, John Toles-Bey and Bobby Crawford, take that line from Chester Himes' 1957 crime novel (on which the film is based), and Bill Duke, the director, uses it as a tone setter for this flamboyant, engaging action comedy.

DVD Talk listed Duke's still too-little-known movie as one of today's new releases; Amazon appears to be selling an edition from 2003. In whatever form you can get your hands on this 1991 sleeper, it's worth grabbing.

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It's an unassuming and unruly frolic, filled with pagan enthusiasms. As a Southern belle called Imabelle, Robin Givens carries both the MacGuffin—a trunk filled with gold ore—and the film. It's about a mismatch made in Heaven between this devil with a red dress on and the churchgoing mortician's aide (Forest Whitaker) who gives her shelter when she comes North to turn the gold into cash.

Givens' performance is a skillfully prolonged sashay, and Whitaker's is one long, uproarious gulp—until, with the help of his estranged half brother Goldy (Gregory Hines), he fights for his woman. The Givens-Whitaker chemistry doesn't bond every element of the raggedy plot.

But the picture is diverting—Duke and the writers come up with scampering jokes. Once again, playing a shady character brings out the best and the baddest in Danny Glover (he's a criminal kingpin called Easy Money). Zakes Mokae has a sassy, robust sweetness in the role of a transvestite brothel owner.

And Badja Djola is scarily persistent as a villain named Slim—Imabelle's previous man. If the title refers to anything, it's Slim.



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