Plot: Gunn (Jim Brown) owns a popular nightclub known as The Gunn Club, which allows him to be involved in local social issues. His business provides him with steady income, not to mention a certain level of power, given his high profile presence. Gunn can protect people from harm or send them up the river, but he is not a cruel person. Instead, he just tries to run his club, romance the ladies, and enjoy his success. But if someone wrongs him or someone he cares about, Gunn will not hesitate to serve up his own brand of justice. His brother Scotty (Herb Jefferson, Jr.) is a radical, a young man who seeks to speak out and attempt to change the system. When he robs a mafia run gambling house and goes on the run, he reaches out to Gunn for protection, but can even Gunn fend off the mob?
Entertainment Value: Black Gunn might not be as well known as some of its peers in the blaxploitation genre, but it is a wild ride that packs in a good deal of action, colorful characters, light sleaze, and bad ass one liners. In other words, it ticks a lot of the boxes genre fans look for and then some. The story is by no means original, but family drama and revenge are reliable wells to go back to, so the movie’s narrative works well and sets up the various genre elements. The movie also benefits from a great cast and some fun performances, not to mention slick dialogue, which help balance out the rather straight forward plot threads. The focus tends to be on action in most scenes, but Black Gunn does invest some time to flesh out the lead character, so it does have a basic level of depth and development. The action is where its at however, with shootouts, chases, and brawls, all of which unfold fairly often, with the gun battles the most prominent of the set piece options. I wouldn’t call this bullet ballet by any means, but the action is fun to watch and has the b movie grit I wanted, so I was pleased. I think anyone with even a slight interest in blaxploitation or 70s action movies would be well served to check out Black Gunn.
I always like to Jim Brown in these kind of roles, as he has an authentic presence as a tough guy, which translates on screen. Of course, he was a titan on the football field and while he was running through the rival players back then, here he runs through cops, hoods, and even the mafia instead. I just think there’s real value in genuine tough guys and without question, Brown fits that bill. His acting might leave a little to be desired, but the role plays to his strengths and doesn’t push his range much, so he does what he does best most of the time. I think he handles the action scenes well, he can deliver a one liner with skill, and his general screen presence is effective. A more than capable lead and Brown is always fun to watch in Black Gunn. Martin Landau is also fun in his role in this one, a big mouth car salesman who dabbles in organized crime. I wish he had more scenes, as when he is wound up, he adds a lot to the movie. The cast also includes Brenda Sykes, Bernie Casey, and Gary Conway.
The Disc: Black Gunn has been released on Blu-ray by Mill Creek Entertainment, as part of a double feature with a second blaxploitation movie, The Take. The visual treatment here is solid, if unremarkable. I think it offers a decent upgrade over the DVD, but don’t expect a new scan or restoration here, just a slight uptick overall. The image looks clean and clear however, with good detail and while colors skew toward the muted end, the hues are well replicated. I can’t be certain, but the movie feels overly dark at times, but if so, that is an issue with the master, not this presentation.