(director: Walt Hill; screenwriters: Bob Gale/Robert Zemeckis; cinematographer: Lloyd Ahern; editor: Freeman Davies; music: Ry Cooder; cast: Art Evans (Bradlee), Ice Cube (Savon), William Sadler (Don), Bill Paxton (Vince), Ice-T (King James), Tico Wells (Davis), Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Cletus), John Toles-Bey (Goose), Hal Landon Jr. (Eugene DeLong), Glenn Plummer (Luther), Byron Minns (Moon), De’voreaux White (Lucky), Ice Cube (Savon), Bruce A. Young (Raymond), Stoney Jackson (Wickey), T.E. Russell (Video); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Neil Canton; Universal; 1992)

A flawed but tense action pic that plays out as a morality tale.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A flawed but tense action pic that plays out as a morality tale, with an all male cast. It comments about the greed over gold and the divide among blacks and whites in a racially charged America during the time frame when the LAPD beat Rodney King and the ensuing L.A. riot. The film was originally titled Looters, but changed for obvious reasons. It’s efficiently directed by Walt Hill (“Hard Times”/”Brewster’s Millions”) and written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis. It blends violence and comedy into its overreaching treasure hunt tale. Though the story is implausible, the acting is fine and the action scenes are well-done. Two white firemen from Arkansas, the nice guy Vince (Bill Paxton) and the greedy Don (William Sadler), while at a fire learn from a crazed elderly guilt-ridden man (Hal Landon Jr.), that a Catholic church was robbed of its gold Greek invaluable religious artifacts in 1942 and hidden in a now abandoned factory in the crime-ridden black ghetto in East St. Louis, Illinois. From a map he gives them before dying in the fire, they learn that the gold is buried in the ceiling of the factory. The firemen go there and find a homeless man, Bradlee (Art Evans), living where the gold is hidden. They gag him and tie him up to a chair. Soon a number of members of a heavily armed drug gang appear and in a revenge execution throw a gang member (John Toles-Bey) off the roof, as witnessed by Vince. The gang, headed by the ruthless King James (Ice-T), spot the white dudes and a shootout occurs as KJ’s beloved younger addict brother Lucky (De’voreaux White), not so lucky this time, is taken hostage by the trapped frightened firemen. Since sibling loyalty prevails, the firemen remain alive as KJ takes a pause in attacking them until he can figure out how to get the white boys without them killing his brother. The senseless thriller grows more preposterous the longer it tries to figure out how to end this mess. But if you dig graphic violence, gun fights, bad-ass street lingo and explosions, and don’t care if a morality tale is amoral, the film might work for you. It modestly achieves some entertainment value–though, not the kind of film I necessarily find rewarding, it’s still watchable even if uneasy viewing.