A somewhat uneasy mix of blaxploitation and western (with an awkward gangsta rap soundtrack, to boot), Mario Van Peebles‘ Posse stars Peebles himself as Jesse Lee, the field commander of the US Army 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers during the Spanish American War, an expert sharpshooter who steals a cache of gold after he and his men are betrayed by the corrupt Colonel Graham (Billy Zane, oozing over-the-top villainy as only Billy Zane can), a racist sumbitch who tried to set the entire platoon up for execution. Lee is joined by the likes of Father Time (Big Daddy Kane), Angel (Tone Loc), Charles Lane Obobo (Tiny Lister, Jr.), Papa Joe (Melvin Van Peebles) and the batshit crazy Little J (Stephen Baldwin) as they blaze across the Wild West, looking for the man that killed Lee’s preacher father — and foolishly believing that Colonel Graham is dead. Posse rode high on its claim that it’s the first film to put “black cowboys” front and center in a studio-backed western, and the premise makes for an intriguing look at a particularly romanticized period in American history from a unique point of view, but Peebles’ limitations as a director has it firing blanks most of the time; the disjointed screenplay by Sy Richardson and Dario Scardapane makes this something of a confusing ride as well, offering a handful of decent stand-alone moments but no clear narrative thru-line — it’s hard to keep track of who these cowboys are, where their loyalties lie and just what horizon they’re heading toward. A curiosity piece, nothing more — certainly not the “event film” it wants to be.
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