Owen Gleiberman
May 17, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A Rage in Harlem

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
115 minutes
performer
Robin Givens, Forest Whitaker, Danny Glover, Zakes Mokae
director
Bill Duke
distributor
Miramax
genre
Drama, Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a C-

There’s just enough atmosphere, comedy, and raw acting talent in Bill Duke’s amiable gangster-caper movie, A Rage In Harlem, to make you wish the plot weren’t a complete shambles. Based on a novel by Chester Himes, it’s set in Harlem in 1956, where Jackson (Forest Whitaker), a religious young man with portraits of Jesus and his mother hanging over his bed, finds himself in the middle of a violent gang war centering on a chest of stolen gold. Jackson has been made into such a primly devout nerd that, despite the best efforts of the roly-poly Whitaker, he never comes alive as a character. A Rage in Harlem starts out full of high spirits but quickly deflates. Still, it may well be remembered as the movie debut of Robin Givens, who, clad in the slinkiest of slinky dresses, wiggles and vamps with a comic panache that rivals Ann-Margret’s. It’s one thing to ooze sex appeal. Givens does it with style. C-

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