Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sweet Jesus, Preacherman (1973)

Confusing, sloppy, and dull, the cheaply made blaxploitation flick Sweet Jesus, Preacherman has an interesting flourish here and there, but these grace notes are not sufficient to make the picture worthwhile. Roger E. Mosley (later to costar on the TV series Magnum P.I.) plays a hit man named Holmes, whose primary employer is a mobster named Martelli (William Smith). When Martelli starts losing control over a black ghetto, he hires Holmes to take the place of the local preacher as a means of infiltrating the community and rooting out crooks who are undermining Martelli’s operation. Seeing as how the movie introduces Holmes by showing him commit several flamboyant murders, like lighting a man on fire and tossing him off the balcony of a high building, the filmmakers don’t exactly make a persuasive case that Holmes is the right guy for a job requiring subtlety. Nonetheless, we’re told that Holmes grew up around Baptist preachers, so he knows how to talk the talk. As soon as Holmes assumes his position behind the pulpit, however, the movie wanders off into subplots about community activists, street-level dealers, and a state senator (Michael Pataki) whom Martelli wants to influence; as a result, Holmes gets lost in the narrative shuffle as supporting characters grab unnecessarily large chunks of screen time. Directed by one Henning Schellerup, Sweet Jesus, Preacherman is so disjointed that some scenes are cut up and dispersed throughout the movie, and so padded that unimportant montages, like that of a pimped-out dealer strutting down the street, drag on forever. The idea that Holmes can pull off his ruse never gains credibility, and a mid-movie plot twist involving Holmes’ sudden desire to seize control of the ghetto comes out of nowhere. Mosley is just okay, though he works up a decent head of steam during his first sermon as a fake preacher, and Smith’s exuberant over-acting is wasted because his character is a cipher.

Sweet Jesus, Preacherman: LAME

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