When it comes to westerns, I certainly have a love hate relationship. For most westerns, especially anything with Clint Eastwood or spaghetti in the description, I have an extreme loathing and it is honestly hard for me to sit through. But then there is Tombstone which I think is one of the best movies of all time. This summer, I am even excited to go see Cowboys & Aliens. Maybe I just need a western that is out of the ordinary. However, I received Posse to review and by the looks of the cover, this might be a very conventional western or perhaps not.
An old black man (I don’t normally get into race, but it is important here) (played by Woody Strode) spins us a story about black cowboys. He tells us to forget about the past and truth. One out of every three cowboys was black. He then goes into a few more facts before telling the tale of Jesse Lee and his posse. It all started long ago during the Spanish-American War, more specifically in Cuba around the year 1898.
We join the 10th Cavalry of Buffalo Soldiers which are led by Jesse Lee (played by Mario Van Peebles) who are in the throws of a violent battle. Jesse’s men are getting blasted and he wants to withdraw. However, when he comes back to his white commanding officer’s tent, Colonel Graham (played by Billy Zane) goes along with it but at a heavy cost. He must shoot a deserter in cold blood.
Unable to shoot somebody in cold blood, Jesse decides to shoot out the man’s cigar instead. Frustrated, Graham shoots the deserter anyway. He then offers another deserter, Little J (played by Stephen Baldwin) command of the 10th Cavalry or to face a firing squad. Even though Little J is a gambling man, he does not like those odds and chooses the former. Little J and Jesse Lee are then put in charge of taking the 10th Cavalry on a very special mission. It will involve plain clothes as opposed to uniforms.
The troupe embarks on a mission to go steal a Spanish gold shipment at the orders of Col. Graham. However, we soon learn that this was just an elaborate trap to kill the entire Cavalry of mostly black soldiers. But when it counts most, a black aide to Graham named Weezie (played by Charles Lane) creates a diversion that lets the Cavalry gain the upper hand and win the battle. But there is little time to worry about the win and they realize very quickly that they must escape.
So Jesse, Little J, Weezie, a hulking strong man named Obobo (played by ”Tiny” Lister ) and a good time loving man named Angel (played by Tone Loc) decide to make their getaway. They decide ultimately to sail across the Sea smuggled in coffins that had contained dead soldiers. Once they land, Jesse decides to head west to take care of some unfinished business.
The other four decide to have a good time in New Orleans where the women are scantily clad and can lose those bits of clothing at the right price. Little J meets a fellow card gambler named Father Time (played by Big Daddy Kane) at the tables but things get heavy when the other players find out that Time is cheating. The two escape back to the room with the other Posse members but they quickly realize that they need to get out of New Orleans and find Jesse Lee. Angry gamblers is not what this posse needs to worry about though. Graham is hot on their trail and Jesse’s too.
This western was a bit on the conventional side but actually surprised me a bit. Even though as one could guess this is heavy on the race concept, there is a good story in the mix. Mario Van Peebles does a good job as Jesse Lee and Stephen Baldwin is not too ridiculous in his portrayal of Little J. But perhaps the best acting job of the movie went to Big Daddy Kane’s portrayal of Father Time. There was a certain grace to the character and it often seemed to channel Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday in Tombstone.
But despite these decent performances, the one thing oddly enough to hamper this movie is characterization. Characters barely get developed, even Jesse Lee or any other member of the Posse. We barely even get to enjoy a few of the characters before they meet an untimely death. As a result, this causes at least this viewer to feel very little empathy towards the proceedings. I know who I am supposed to cheer for, but I could care less why. There is certainly a lack of passion in this brutal western.
The video is in 2.35:1 widescreen presentation at 1080p resolution. Color is pretty decent here considering the age, but the presentation is certainly not without its issues. Heavy grain appears in some night time scenes and I swore I could even tell that some of the background was not realistic meaning possible green screen. It kills the whole romantic scene mood to say the least. But for the most part, it looks good and should not hurt your viewing experience.
For the audio portion, we get a 2.0 DTS-HD track for English (also included is 2.0 French Dolby Digital Surround and Spanish Mono). For the first twenty minutes, I was actually surprised at how full the 2.0 DTS track actually was. Gunshots were flying around my speakers and I was very pleased at the proceedings. Then, dialog set in and while it is clear it is not without some rather hollow sounding qualities. Furthermore, the opening scenes are best in terms of quality and never quite reaches that point again. Subtitles are also included for English SDH, French and Spanish.
Notes: By the way, if you are not familiar with how lazy this and many other Fox catalog releases are, let me educate. The movie autostarts immediately (which to some is a good thing I suppose) and when you hit menu, you get the most awful grey bland menu you could ever ask for. Oh yeah, and an eco-case to store it in. I am glad that Fox is releasing these titles on blu-ray, however they could put some work into the presentation.
Posse is an interesting film. I mean where else can you see Tone Loc as a cowboy which as it turns is not all that different from Tone Loc as a rapper. (I think he was smuggling a little Funky Cold Medina). Anyway, a few decent performances from the likes of Van Peebles and Big Daddy Kane set this western apart even if the characterization did not get to the height I would have liked to see it at. It is a different story, one that deserves to be told.
However, the disc is another catalog job from the 20th Century Fox production office. The video and audio is decidedly average and there are no extras or menus to speak of. The movie is worth a bargain price if you want to seek it out or rent it from your rental provider. Honestly, we could get a commentary from Mario and possibly a couple of the other actors on the movie if they wanted to put a little money into it but they won’t. Slightly recommended but like Mick Jagger said, I can’t get no satisfaction.