Directed by Pierre Laffargue.
Starring MC Jean Gab’1, Carole Karemera, Francois Levantal and Anton Yakovlev.
Black (MC Jean Gab’1), licks his wounds and considers his future after a bank robbery gone wrong, in which nearly his entire crew is wiped out. He soon receives information from his cousin about a large cache of diamonds currently residing in a bank in Dakar, Senegal. Quickly assembling a new gang, Black sets out for Africa and what he believes will be the score to end all scores. However, his gang are not the only people interested in the diamonds and Black is propelled into a world of corrupt Russian army gunmen, voodoo and spiritual awakening.
From the outset, Black sets out its stall as something different from a straight up heist movie. On his way to hijacking a bank money transport, Black (MC Jean Gab’1) narrowly avoids hitting an old man in tribal priest’s robes who reveals to Black a prophecy, telling him; ‘You are the lion. The one who will defeat the evil snake.’ Black takes the old man’s words in his stride and continues on to the robbery which turns into a disaster. The holy man’s prophecy will, of course, prove eerily accurate and adds an extra dimension to the film. Black is not just drawn to Africa by the thought of riches but is also seemingly pulled there by forces beyond his control. These elements of the supernatural / magical could jar when coupled with the heist objective but the film is structured as such that the more fantastical elements of the story emerge towards the end of the second act and work well as a more spiritual juxtaposition with the gun play of the previous action.
Debut director Pierre Laffargue does a good job of adapting his craft to suit the stylistic back and forth needed for a genre-masher like Black. He allows the cameras to get in close when gun fights erupt and has a good eye for a raw, gritty aesthetic. Laffargue is equally adept at staging and capturing glamorous, slow-motion sequences and flowing, one take shots. It is the director’s fluency and adroit hand that allow the film to cross over into various filmic realms without it feeling disjointed or fractious. Laffargue is ably assisted by his leading man, with Gab’1 handling his duties well, able to bring out a boyish charm and capable, muscular presence in equal measures.
In combining elements of blaxploitation and spiritual/fantastical themes with the modern heist movie, Black is able to tread and, quite often, cross the boundaries of believability to no ill effect and mesh the various elements therein to keep the film running. The film does sag slightly, however, in the second act. Taken up chiefly with the meeting of and burgeoning relationship between Black and Pamela (Carole Karemera), for a while the film is subject to some aimless meandering. This is remedied by the pair’s journey into the Senegalese plains and their time with a native tribe. Seen as fulfilling an ancient prophecy, Black and Pamela undergo the rituals of the tribe and soon embody the spirits of their ‘totems’ – Lion and Panther respectively. After their awakening, the pair journey to the lair of ubiquitous white panama suit wearing villain Degrande (Francois Levanthal), who has metamorphosed into a snake-man creature thanks to his voodoo priestess wife (Mata Gabin). Phew.
The final showdown is shot in an ethereal, blue hue and gives the whole climax a woozy, animalistic feel. The film ends with Black back in the Parisian suburbs, subject to the excited talk of young men about his legendary exploits in Africa. He sits in silence, listening and drinking a beer. Making his way to the street to be rejoined with Pamels, Gab’1 radiates calmness in his final scenes and displays outwardly the mystifying experiences of his character’s time in Africa, which has now taken him far beyond the base nature of money and diamonds.
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