5/10
An okay sequel
6 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The beginning of this sequel to BLACK CAESAR reminds me a lot of the old movie serials. At the beginning of each serial episode, they show part of the previous episode and in some cases they actually changed what happened in the previous episode! I remember seeing SPY SMASHER a long time ago and in several scenes he appeared to die--yet when they showed the following episode he actually didn't die after all! Kids loved these films so most didn't question these inconsistencies. Well, the same thing happened following BLACK CAESAR. Fred Williamson's character (Tommy Gibbs) is left dying and beaten by teens at the end of the film. Now in HELL UP IN HARLEM you see many of the same scenes from the end of BLACK CAESAR--but this time there is no dying scene where the man is pummeled by teens and he is not all alone. Instead, Gibbs' father shows up to save him along with a posse of friends--even though this clearly is NOT how the previous film ended and the father (Julius Harris) is a very different character than he was in the previous film. These sort of inconsistencies about in the movie and I guess the character was too good and American-International Pictures decided to bring him back regardless of whether or not it made much sense.

In this film, Tommy is a bit different than the last film. In BLACK CAESAR, Tommy was 100% unlikable and bad--a truly despicable guy. However, here in HELL he's more like a crusader as he fights corrupt government officials and mobsters. While some of this action is pretty good, the latter portion of the film is pretty silly even by Blaxploitation movie standards. That's because Tommy returns from an inexplicable retirement in LA and takes on the entire mob all by himself!! And, in many instances, he kills baddies in front of huge crowds and yet he always is able to escape unharmed!! In the final scene, the leader of the mob catches him at point blank range--yet the gun somehow miraculously jams! These scenes just don't look thought out and seem a bit sloppy--though exciting on a very basic level. In many ways, this sequel and the ridiculous way the guy takes on the mob single-handedly reminds me of SHAFT'S BIG SCORE--another sub-par sequel to an excellent Blaxploitation film. Overall, this is an okay film--neither as original or clever as the original and a film that seems like it's mostly action and very little plot--it's simply mindless brain candy.

By the way, at one point the film cuts to a scene on an island and the caption reads "an island off the Florida Keys". Well, I've been to the Keys and they are some of the flattest islands on the planet. Yet, oddly, this island is very, very hilly and there isn't a palm tree in sight!!
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