Even though critics panned this film, I think it deserves props for taking on the subject of the Buffalo Soldiers. The story focuses on a group of African-American soldiers (plus one white guy), who
are betrayed by a racist colonel kinda commit mutiny and desertion after the racist colonel in charge of their regiment sends them on a mission to steal gold from the Spanish, after which said colonel intended to, um, eliminate them and nab the gold. But this does not work out well for him.
In any case, the rag-tag group follows Jessie Lee (played by Mario Van Peebles) to New Orleans, where they meet a gambler named Father Time (played by Big Daddy Kane) and one of the bunch plays poker with him. When it comes to light that Father Time has been cheating, one group member tries to save him from being
lynched tried and convicted of anything. And, in all the commotion that follows, guess who shows up? The racist colonel, of course (played by Billy Zane). Sans an eye. A gun battle ensues and a few deserters end up on the permanent DL buying it dead.
Anyway, Jessie organizes his
surviving friends into a posse. And with the racist, one-eyed colonel in hot pursuit, they make their way to Freemanville, the town Jessie’s dad founded and populated with nearly every prominent black actor Hollywood had to offer at the time. Including the one and only Woody Strode, who shows up at the end.
And wouldn’t it be nice if things had ended on the happy note of their arrival in town. But, no—dastardly deeds are in the works, thanks to Jessie’s “good friend” Sheriff Carver (played by Blair Underwood). Among other things, Carver is working secretly with a certain Sheriff Bates, who demands that Jessie be turned over to him. This is the same Sheriff Bates who killed Jessie’s dad,
who had the very subtle name of King David, so … that meet would be decidedly uncute and awkward.
Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that there’s a big conflagration at the climax where scores are settled and ghosts laid to rest. (And Nipsey Russell gets to say, “Why can’t we all just get along?”)
While I suppose the film is a bit on the message-y side, I loved the history it explored. The film has plenty of action, and I liked the characters a lot.
And Woody Strode’s appearance before the final fadeout gives it at least an extra half star in the rating.
Enjoyable movie and representative of how the Western movie had to evolve to remain relevant.