Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Ralph Bakshi

REVIEWED: 09-02-97

What's the best blaxploitation movie ever? Classicists prefer Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, purists admire The Mack, and connoisseurs lean towards Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite trilogy. But not even these masterworks can match the attitude, style, and sheer funky genius of Ralph Bakshi's Streetfight, which also happens to be one of the best animated features ever made in this country. Scatman Crothers narrates this subversive modernization of Uncle Remus' (and Disney's) Song of the South. In this version, Brother Rabbit (Philip Michael Thomas), Brother Fox (Charles Gordone), and Brother Bear (Barry White -- Jesus, what a great fucking cast!) head North after a bloody shoot-out with some redneck cops. They hit Harlem, and Brother Rabbit rises, Scarface-style, to become the biggest player in history. He uses many of his classic tricks (remember the briar patch? the tar baby?) to muscle in on both the Mafia and a Sharptonesque preacher who's selling Revolution to the people. Streetfight uses its own "cartooniness" to match the incendiary rhetoric, profane humor, and raw sex and violence of the finest blaxploitation. Bakshi floods his movie with racial caricatures that push beyond offensiveness into surrealism. He catalogues the grotesque legacy of American culture in general and Hollywood in particular, exploring the very real ways that movies (all movies, including this one) continue to exploit blacks for the purposes of entertainment.

--Chris Baker

Other Films by Ralph Bakshi
American Pop

Film Vault Suggested Links
The Basketball Diaries
The Designated Mourner

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