GANG RELATED (1997) ***
Starring: James Belushi, Tupac Shakur, Lela Rochon, Dennis Quaid, James Earl
Jones, and David Paymer
Written and directed by: Jim Kouf Running Time: 106 minutes Rated R
(for strong pervasive language, violence, sexual situations, and some
By Blake French:
My expectations for "Gang Related" weren't exactly peak high when I decided
to screen it. The production just didn't look like anything new to be added
into the gritty undercover street cop genre. I was wrong, and the film is
somewhat original. I liked the film and its gritty ghetto style it is shot
in. I recommend it to those of you looking for a violence action picture
with an attitude.
The film's setup begins a little week, but then triggers a series of
unpredictable events that connect to each other in a distributive fashion.
The two main characters are FBI agents Divinci (James Belushi), and
Rodriguez (Tupac Shakur). They are corrupt cops, taking the law into their
own hands in many cases, sometimes resulting in murder. One night, Divinci
and Rodriguez undercover a drug bust that ends in them shooting the seeming
criminal dead. As it turns out, the so called drug lord was actually an
The movie's intentions are clear from the first act; we are watching a
story from the bad guys point of view. It is an unconventional idea. The
opening contains to little dramatic material to go much anywhere, so the
rest of the film much hinge of from it. We meet two characters, receive some
development that explains to us these are down on their luck, profane,
unrighteous individuals, and are then propelled into the rest of the plot,
which basically details the complications of the villain's bad choices.
Once Divinci and Rodriguez learn the identity of the man they brutally
killed, they panic. Their first intentions. Since they are the cops assigned
to this high pressure case, that they will need to come up with a either a
criminal suspect who will plead guilty to their dastardly deed, or frame a
crime friendly fellow who can't prove he didn't commit their murder. In the
streets they come from, crime and murder is an everyday occurrence, so their
plans should work out a-okay...right.
I really liked where the film goes from here: In desperation, Divinci and
Rodriguez decide to frame a homeless bum for their murderous crime, played
tremendously convincing by Dennis Quaid. The bearded man selected is so out
of it, he doesn't even remember his name. So our two incisive corrupters
give him a name, plant evidence, explain to him a story which he believes
happened, and bribe him to confession.
Characters who enter the story afterward are Cynthia (Lela Rochon), a
stripper who is persuaded to lend a deceitful but helping hand to Divinci
and Rodriguez, powerful lawyer Arthur Baylor James (Earl Jones), who comes
to the rescue of the bum's hopeless defense, and another "lesser" lawyer
named Elliot Goff (David Paymer).
"Gang Related" contains a story that is as involving and intriguing as any
action picture in the last several years. It uncommonly has unpredictable
elements inside. The complication of the conflict are tense and involving as
the characters sink themselves into a deeper pit of despair and trouble. But
one thing came across my mind as I watched Divinci and Rodriguez work up a
taut sweat as they make life or death cover up choices, why don't they just
flee the country?
Jim Kouf, who wrote and directed this final film to star the late Tupac
Shakur, observes decent performances with the strong dramatic impulse
manifested. He holds nothing back, and at times goes over the edge a little
in his style of direction. The atmosphere created in "Gang Related" is
abrasive, pervasive, and indiscreetly tough. But with such a movie titled
"Gang Related," what would you expect?
Brought to you by Orion Pictures.