The western has always been a sort of hit-and-miss affair. At one point in time, the entire genre — which started as far back as the 1920s as nothing more than Saturday matinee fodder to sell bijou seats to the kiddies — existed solely because they were easy (and, most importantly: cheap) to make. Around the time the ‘50s rolled around, Hollywood was able to produce big-budgeted westerns in widescreen, but soon met up with some fierce competition from the Euro/Spaghetti Western movement in the ‘60s before the entire genre all-but-waned in the ‘70s.
Ever since then, a few folks have tried their best to either ultimately revive or at least pay their respect to the cowboy movie, one such attempt being Mario Van Peebles’ Posse.
The story here centers on a group of (mostly black) soldiers from the Spanish-American War (led by Mario himself) whose various unpleasant actions have earned them a special room with armed guards outside of it. After being assigned by a disapproving commanding officer (Billy Zane) to retrieve a cache of gold (um, why?), the boys soon go AWOL with their newly-salvaged ore. Mario figures now is as good of a time as any to return to the town where his father was lynched to seek revenge, while Billy is hot on his tail to seek a little vengeance of his own.
Despite being laced with a formidable collection of familiar faces like Stephen Baldwin, Charles Lane, Big Daddy Kane, Tiny Lister, Jr. and boasting a number of guest appearances by the likes of Pam Grier, Isaac Hayes, Paul Bartel, Stephen J. Cannell, Melvin Van Peebles and Woody Strode, there really isn’t much to make Posse a memorable film. In fact, I’ve already forgotten most of it. It’s a bland journey into an elapsed chapter of the Wild West (the history of the black cowboy): one that could have been both informative and triumphant had it been handled competently.