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USA 1973
Directed by
Michael Campus
110 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
4 stars

The Mack

Goldie returns to his 'hood in downtown Oakland following five years in prison after he was set up. His brother Olinga is now grown up and fighting for black power, his mother is more religious than ever and his trusty sidekick, Slim, is still on the wrong side of the tracks. Goldie decides the only way out of his dead-end life is to become a pimp, the coolest, baddest pimp of them all. He becomes The Mack and plans to rid his 'hood of drugs.

The jive-talkin’ anti-heroes of The Mack put the viewer in a dilemma; they are pimps, petty thieves and junkies yet you cannot help but cheer them on. Yes, the film glamorises their dubious profession, the clothes, the women and the cars but when Goldie returns to his ‘hood he inveigles the local kids to become lawyers, teachers and doctors, not to follow him into a world of sleaze. He even makes sure they don’t skip school by bribing them!

The film’s social conscience is provided by Goldie’s brother Olinga, played by Roger. E. Mosley, helicopter pilot ‘T.C’. from television Magnum P.I.. Leader of the local Black Panthers, he talks of a black uprising whereas all Goldie wants is the good life. The juxtaposition of radical politics and the decadent world of The Mack give the film a political punch and racial backbone missing from many entries in the Blaxploitation genre. The film is given more resonance by casting real life pimps, or players, in many of the roles (it is dedicated to Frank. D. Ward, one of the infamous families of players, The Ward brothers). Even the outrageous footage of the Pimp of the Year awards, The Players’ Convention, with its over-the-top wardrobe, hairdo, and conspicuous consumption on show, are real. Indeed, many of the events are based on actual occurrences. Who would have thought the pimps’ annual baseball BBQ cook-out actually happened! Fact is indeed, stranger then fiction.

Max Julian, the drummer from Jack Nicholson’s band in Psyche Out! is a marvel as Goldie. He holds the film together as the confused pimp trying to make good. Richard Pryor is also wonderful as his constantly twitching sidekick, Slim, his nervous energy making you wish that Pryor had taken many more serious roles.

The film’s pivotal scene, as the two brothers argue about black rights, their neighbourhood and their relationship is truly moving. As Willie Hutch’s Brothers Gonna Work It Out plays in the background, they try to realise that having each other should be enough, a fine sentiment indeed. The Mack is everything that is cool in the Blaxploitation genre.




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