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.
Like I said before, I can’t recall any of the events that occurred in Posse (though I do distinctly remember shaking my head an awful lot). Strangely enough, however, I seem to vividly dredge up a memory of a previous employer’s thoughts on Mario Van Peebles. In the mid to late ‘90s, when I was managing a video store, my boss would occasionally refer to Mr. Van Peebles as “the kiss of death” in the home video rental business: any and all features either featuring or made by him always seemed to bomb and never be worth the investment.
This was one of ‘em.
MGM wisely shuffles this dud onto Blu-ray as a catalogue title in a surprisingly-decent 1080p/AVC transfer, which preserves the film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While there are a few (mostly minor) irregularities in the presentation, the overall look is quite nice, sporting a better-than-expected color scheme and detail throughout. An English DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio soundtrack accompanies the flick and suffices admirably for what it (and the film) has to offer. Optional subtitles are available in English (SDH), French and Spanish.
Like many of MGM’s recent catalogue releases, this one has no root menu to speak of: it boots up, plays the movie and then loops the film once it’s over. A Theatrical Trailer is the only extra here, and is available via a pop-up menu while the movie is playing. And, in many ways, I suppose that’s more than adequate for this turkey.