"A Rage in Harlem" is an uneven combination of comedy and carnage. When it's good, it's very good. When it's not, it's simply bloody.
The film, whose title is slightly misleading, begins on a harsh note, survives that, and for the next hour or so, is sound, broad comedy. Unfortunately, as the movie closes it becomes ugly again, destroying the mood and ending on a less than satisfactory note.
"A Rage in Harlem" begins in 1956 in a small southern town. There is a shootout between blacks who have stolen some gold, and whites, who had planned to betray the blacks and take the gold.
During the shootout, Imabelle (Robin Givens) flees and makes it to New York with the gold in a suitcase. That's where the fun begins. In Harlem, Imabelle becomes involved with an assortment of people, most of whom want her or the gold, or both.
One of the citizens who only wants the girl is David, a Harlem rube played by Forest Whitaker. You can't blame him. As played by Givens, Imabelle looks like a million. When she arrives in Harlem, Imabelle says she has no money, so you wonder where she has managed to find all those form-fitting dresses.
Gregory Hines is David's half-brother, a numbers runner who has been living in Harlem, conning anybody he can. Zakes Mokae is Big Kathy, the transvestite manager of a Harlem house of joy. Danny Glover is a mob king who loves his cat.
"A Rage in Harlem" speeds along. The plot isn't always easy to follow, but the players are having so much fun you're not likely to mind.
It's that last half hour that derails the film. It includes a number of brutal killings, which might have been handled differently.
"A Rage in Harlem" opens today at local theaters.
"A Rage in Harlem" ** A southern girl, carrying a stash of gold, flees to Harlem where she falls in love with a rube.
CAST: Forest Whitaker, Gregory Hines, Zakes Mokae, Robin Givens
DIRECTOR: Dick Duke
RATING: R (sex, nudity, language, violence)
) RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes