Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Mack (1973)

Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

Set up to take the fall during a shoot out and physically abused by racist cops (Don Gordon and William C. Watson), Goldie (Max Julien) spends 5 years in prison. When he gets out he pledges to become king of his neighborhood, building himself up as a pimp so he can support his doting mother (Juanita Moore) and help out the local kids who don't have any spending money. Those asshole cops are back on his tail, and he'll need all the help he can get to take them down, including his activist brother (Roger E. Mosley) and his buddy Slim (Richard Pryor).

So I guess on paper The Mack is supposed to be about a good dude who happens to be a pimp, using his status and money to clean up his neighborhood and fight police corruption and drug dealers and such. And that sounds nice. But ACTUALLY this movie is half misogynistic male fantasy and half surreal rambling fantasy-fantasy. The story is all over the place, a fair chunk of the scenes don't relate to any other scenes, and I could not get a handle on Goldie's character at all. He somehow convinces a wealthy white lady to be a sex worker, he's super nice to his ladies but then he'll randomly emotionally abuse them, he plots heists that never take place, he has this facial structure that changes his age by a decade depending how he turns his face. There are a lot of inconsistencies, is what I'm saying.

And so I have a theory that I think is pretty damned strong, but was never confirmed, but is definitely 100% correct: Most of The Mack is a dream. Yup. Near the beginning Goldie sleeps with Lulu (Carol Speed) and then gets out of bed to observe himself in the mirror, planning his big pimp plans. There's this weird cross-fade and he's like hanging out with the boss criminals and throwing lots of cash into the air and you think it's him dreaming about the future, right? But then suddenly it's just like, this is his life and it's a really confusing transition. AND SO I posit that from this point on everything is a dream, because that's the only way anything makes sense. Why else would there be a pimp ball? A Pimp Ball? Like, they step out of limos and walk down a red carpet and the press is interviewing them and once inside they get awards. Pimp awards. According to imdb this whole scene was inspired by something Richard Pryor actually witnessed, but that doesn't make it any less bizarre.

Ok so obviously this movie stuck with me even if I don't think I particularly liked it. I was entertained by how strange and surprising it was, loved the wacky costumes, and I did enjoy Max Julien in the lead as well as Roger Mosley as his awesome black activist brother. But all the misogyny got to me (not that I was surprised by it) and there wasn't enough Richard Pryor.


Pair This Movie With: When I found out that star Max Julien wrote Cleopatra Jones for his girlfriend Tamara Dobson, I was totally in the mood to revisit that rad movie.



    If you think this movie makes no sense, you should check out 'Dolemite'!

  2. Hahaha thanks for the link! I did not know such a thing actually existed, aside from whatever experience Pryor based the scene on. And I've been warned against DOLEMITE so I'm not sure I'll see it any times soon.

  3. Yup, the "Players' Ball" is a real thing, though I suspect it was inspired by this movie.

    Some people love THE MACK, but I don't get it. I guess you have to be a bigger blaxploitation aficionado than I am to see its magic. I just see a poorly executed action movie with minimal camp appeal. I agree with Rich that the crude and ridiculous DOLEMITE movies are a lot more fun.