A Rage in Harlem (1991) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Rage in Harlem (1991)



Critic Consensus: If it can't quite live up to its source material, A Rage in Harlem still proves a stylishly effective period thriller.

A Rage in Harlem Photos

Movie Info

Bill Duke directs this quirky film adaptation of Chester Himes' crime novel -- a heavily plotted gangster tale with a sweet love story hidden underneath. The film begins in Natchez, Mississippi in 1956. During a police shoot-out with the mob leader Slim's (Badja Djola) gang, Slim's moll Imabelle (Robin Givens) takes off with a cadre of stolen gold. As a result, Imabelle is chased by Slim's mob from Mississippi to New York. By the time she reaches Harlem, she is broke and has to figure out a way to ditch the trunk full of gold. She finds herself at the annual Undertaker's Ball, where she sees the big and dumb Jackson (Forest Whitaker), a bumbling undertaker's assistant. She spots Jackson as a mark that she can use as a cover and latches onto him immediately. She moves in with him to hide out, but Imabelle becomes taken with his innocence. For his part, Jackson falls head over heels in love with her. But the Mississippi mob catches up with her and takes her away. Jackson calls in his street-wise brother Goldy (Gregory Hines) to help him rescue Imabelle. Jackson fears that Imabelle has been kidnapped. But Goldy knows better -- he still agrees to help him but Goldy wants the gold for himself.

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Robin Givens
as Imabelle
Zakes Mokae
as Big Kathy
Danny Glover
as Easy-Money
Stack Pierce
as Coffin Ed
George Wallace (II)
as Grave Digger
Reynaldo Rey
as Blind Man
Helen Martin
as Mrs. Canfield
Willard E. Pugh
as Claude X.
Samm-Art Williams
as Gus Parsons
John Seitz
as Lester Bunton
Jack Beatty
as Sheriff
Birdie M. Hale
as 1st Domestic
John W. Hardy
as Reverend Gaines
Anthonia Dotson
as 1st Female Mourner
James Spinks
as Bartender
Kipp Cochran
as 1st Cop
Tracy A. Taylor
as Skanky Whore
Kevin Ruthven
as Bus Driver
Leslie Dockery
as Chorus Dancer
Edgar Godineaux Jr.
as Chorus Dancer
Kimberly Hester
as Chorus Dancer
Hajna O. Moss
as Chorus Dancer
Joni Palmer
as Chorus Dancer
John Parks
as Chorus Dancer
Herbert Rawlins
as Chorus Dancer
Romelle Reaux
as Chorus Dancer
Mike Roscoe
as Chorus Dancer
Kiki Sheppard
as Chorus Dancer
Wynonna Smith
as Chorus Dancer
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Critic Reviews for A Rage in Harlem

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (17)

Duke keeps this tangled tale of lust and larceny bouncing with a disreputable, funloving B-movie energy that's hard to resist.

February 6, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

With its snazzy Elmer Bernstein score, its snappy period flavor and its all-star cast doing something completely different, A Rage in Harlem should have been much more fun than it is.

July 1, 2013 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

Jazzy and jauntily funny.

July 1, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

As the movie becomes increasingly violent and unpleasant, the characters chase around after each other in a threadbare gangster plot about a trunk of gold.

July 1, 2013 | Rating: 1/5

[A] flamboyant, engaging action comedy.

July 1, 2013

Duke and company have been true to Himes' brash, blaspheming spirit, and that is no small thing.

July 1, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A Rage in Harlem


(Includes one minor spoiler, but it's unrelated to the plot and really more of a recommendation.) Surprised to see so few votes and comments for A Rage in Harlem - it was a modest commercial hit in Britain, so perhaps the all-black casting and setting just didn't play Peoria. The tone of this stylish, good-looking period crime adventure swings wildly between brutal, raunchy, tragic and comic, but a clever, funny script and likeable characters - especially Gregory Hines's big-hearted wiseguy Goldy, but also several delightfully written minor roles - maintain attention and sympathy throughout what could otherwise have been a bumpy ride. It's an emotionally engaging film, much more character-driven than the average urban thriller of the 1990s. Its purely incidental pleasures are many, topped by a splendid musical treat in the shape of cult R 'n' B hero Screamin' Jay Hawkins, giving a no-holds-barred performance of his voodoo classic I Put a Spell on You at the Harlem Undertakers' Ball. If you have a taste for the old school of black show business, this sequence will have you holding up the rest of the picture until you've given Screamin' Jay an encore. Thrills, laughs, and pathos, dished up with verve and heart, make a film that many of us still remember very affectionately.

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer


Average comic thriller interesting only for it's unusual adaptation of the book upon it was based, as it concentrates on the crooks rather than the cops.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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