It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
They meet at the annual Undertaker's Ball, where Jackson is surprised to find himself, because as a devout churchgoing young man he has nothing to do with the types who hang around there - including Goldy (Gregory Hines), his street-smart brother. He is thunderstruck by his first sight of Imabelle, who ignores him until she realizes this is her ideal patsy. Then she asks him to dance ("It's easy. Just grab me and squeeze"), and he realizes she is the most beautiful and wonderful woman in the world.
He is not quite right. She reads him for an easy mark, and plans to use him as part of her plan to keep her hands on the gold.
But then something strange happens. They go to his room, where she is blindsided by his innocence and sincerity - transformed by the pure sweetness of his love. For the first time in Imabelle's life, she's met a man who idealizes her, and the experience is almost too much for her. She struggles. She tries to remain true to her criminal ideals. But big, goofy, virginal Jackson looks at her adoringly, and her heart flutters.
The relationship between Jackson and Imabelle is at the heart of "A Rage in Harlem," which is based on a novel by Chester Himes (1909-1984), who specialized in atmospheric crime novels. The film has walk-ons for two of his familiar characters, Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, made famous in his Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965, filmed in 1970). It also has roles for a great many other characters, among them Easy Money (Danny Glover), a numbers boss; Big Kathy (Zakes Mokae), a transvestite brothel keeper, and Slim (Badja Djola), a gang leader from the South who is Imabelle's former lover, and who knows about the gold.