Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gordon’s War (1973)

          Some blaxploitation movies surmount their limitations through inspired storytelling; others achieve infamy with their grimy excess. And then there are movies like Gordon’s War, which delivers a passable narrative with so-so style—the movie’s not awful, particularly for viewers who are fond of leading actor Paul Winfield, but it’s so generic that, but for the level of cursing and violence, it might as well be an episode of s ’70s action-adventure TV show. The plot is cobbled together from highly familiar elements. Gordon Hudson (Winfield) is a decorated Green Beret who returns from Vietnam to find his Harlem neighborhood overrun with drug dealers, pimps, and other underworld types. When Gordon suffers personal tragedies at the hands of criminals, he recruits several Army buddies to form a vigilante militia and kick hoodlum ass. As directed by the sensitive humanist Ossie Davis, Gordon’s War isn’t quite as tacky as the premise might suggest—Davis tries to imbue scenes with relatable feelings whenever possible, and the characters behave logically. Further, Winfield is such a potent actor that even when he’s speaking trite dialogue, genuine anger seethes beneath his skin.
          But, ultimately, Gordon’s War has a job to do: The movie’s purpose is to stimulate viewers with high-octane inner-city action, meaning lots of bloodshed and chase scenes and gunfire and mayhem. As a result, higher narrative aspirations get short shrift, which has the effect of rendering Gordon’s War quite flat. The picture is neither an all-out actioner nor a legitimate drama. After all, how many “real” movies feature motorcycles crashing through store windows or hoodlums getting burned alive with the ignited discharge from aerosol cans? And in case you’re wondering, Gordon’s War doesn’t add much to the incendiary subgenre of movies about vets-turned-vigilantes, because the title character’s military background is mostly used to explain where he got his experience with guerilla warfare techniques. One wishes Davis and Winfield had been given a chance to dramatize the scars of war, but, clearly, the producers were more interested in explosions, funky soundtrack music, and outrageous pimp outfits.

Gordon’s War: FUNKY

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