Plot: Tommy Gibbs (Fred Williamson) built a hell of a reputation for himself, being called The Black Godfather and even the Overlord of the Underworld, but even he is not untouchable. He learns this the hard way when he ambushed in broad daylight in the middle of the city, gunned down in plain sight. Most men would have been killed in such an assault, but Gibbs remained composed and managed to escape, though leaking blood like a faucet. With some help from his father and his loyal soldiers, Gibbs makes it to a hospital, for some surgery at gunpoint. He then negotiates an escape route thanks to having some sensitive documents, but he knows that can only buy him so much safety, so he has to think of a plan. While his plan manages to restore peace for a while, soon the streets are once again flush with violence. But is Gibbs up to another all out turf war, or has the peace softened his stance?
Entertainment Value: This is the sequel to Black Caesar and thankfully, the movie has director Larry Cohen back, as well as several prominent cast members like Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, D’Urville Martin, and Gloria Hendry. The movie proves to be a fun ride, with a gritty, but sometimes absurd take on the street gangster lifestyle. I only say absurd because we are shown characters who not only live up to stereotypes, but take them to the extremes. The violent, but always cool mobsters in Hell Up in Harlem look bad ass and take no shit, but they’re so over the top at times, you have to appreciate the almost camp value involved. I love that aspect of the movie and blaxploitation in general loves to amp up the stereotypes, so it isn’t a knock on this film in the least. There’s plenty of violent action and while the scope of the action is limited by the budget involved, we still get some wild moments. Williamson is cool as hell, like always, giving us some fun one liners and his unique action style. Martin is always fun to watch too, even here as a preacher no less. I also love the fashion and overall 70s vibe, as it all just makes things seem so bad ass. If you’re a fan of Cohen, Williamson, or blaxploitation in general, this one is well worth a look.
Just one scene of nakedness, with a sex scene showing off some breasts, as well as Williamson’s bare ass. He also wears a speedo during an amphibious assault, if you’re a fan of the banana hammock. This one is loaded with shoot outs, so of course we have some splashy wounds here and there. The squibs pop often and gush well, so a lot of wild gun battles equals a lot of the red stuff. There’s also a scene where an umbrella is used to impale someone, but the blood is some kind of horrible looking visual composite, almost like a literal cartoon splash of blood. Aside from the gun based violence, we have some fist fights, but not much bloodshed involved. The dialogue has some fun tough guy talk, as well as William’s one liners. He has a rather outlandish line toward the finale about making someone famous, but I shan’t repeat it here. The lines here aren’t as over the top as some blaxploitation flicks, but there are some fun exchanges, to be sure. The craziness here is high for a while, with a scuba diving amphibious assault on a mafia stronghold, a bikini martial artist fighting Williamson, and sleeper cell maids taking great pleasure in the slaughter of their employers, but it soon tapers off. I think just that scene alone earns a couple points though, as it is quite fun and unusual. I also loved the long, extensive “race to head off a guy at the airport” sequence, as it is so drawn out and ridiculous, but insanely fun to watch.
Overall Insanity: 4/10