Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
The underlying story of "Posse" is one that needs to be told, about an American West that was populated not just by white cowboys, but also by blacks, who rode the range, were lawmen and outlaws, and ruled themselves in their own black townships. It is a West not often seen in Hollywood movies; 79-year-old Woody Strode, who appears in a supporting role, is one of only a few African-Americans to appear in Westerns before recent years.
The story needs to be told, but unfortunately that is what director Mario Van Peebles does not do in "Posse." This is an overdirected, overphotographed, overdone movie that is so distracted by its hectic, relentless style that the story line is rendered almost incoherent. The camera never stands still when it can circle.
A shot is never held if it can be intercut with other shots. And the dialogue exists so uneasily with the overdone surround sound effects that at times it's hard to understand the words.
Van Peebles is a good director. He proved that with 1991's "New Jack City," a powerful feature debut. I do not understand what went wrong here. Did he fear that the movie's basic story was too mundane without the visual pyrotechnics? Did he get hooked on an overwrought style and not realize how confusingly it would play? The movie begins during the Spanish-American War, when a band of black U.S. soldiers, including Van Peebles, Charles Lane, Tone Loc, Tiny Lister and their white comrade, Stephen Baldwin, fight heroically but are undercut by their corrupt white commander (Billy Zane). The opening battle scenes are not promising; the soundtrack is so busy that plot points get lost.