Director Jamaa Fanaka, originator of the PENITENTIARY series, goes the pulp route in STREET WARS, an urban gangsta saga with an odd TOP GUN twist. Despite inferior production values and a dubious crosscutting technique, its unfettered enthusiasm ultimately carries the day.
Charles R. Williams, Jr., a.k.a. Sugarpop (Alan Joseph Howe), is the top pilot in his class at Exeter Military Academy, where he's being sponsored by big brother Frank (Bryan O'Dell), a notorious drug kingpin and ghetto dignitary. Sugarpop is a shoo-in candidate for West Point on the strength of
his dogfight skills in aerolite motorized planes. But Frank has big plans for Sugarpop in the world of legitimate business, far from his own tainted past. But when Frank is assassinated and Sugarpop drops his assailant, the aspiring pilot reluctantly inherits a suburban crackhouse empire.
Soon, Sugarpop is sporting a snap-brim Stetson and presiding over the Knights of the Round Table, a dashiki-clad tribunal of local warlords. Aided by his girlfriend Tina (Michelle Johnson), Frank's enormous bodyguard Humungus (Clifford Shecog), and flamboyant, two-fisted drag queen Neckbone
(Terrence Hart), Sugarpop successfully repels a challenge from within; his chief rival, Rock (Laurence Lowe), is in the pocket of oily Mafia don Gratz (Eric Kohner). Fearing an all-out gang war, Sugar Pop takes his minions back out to the Exeter training ground and whips them into a makeshift
aerolite ghetto air force. Meanwhile, he taps college roomie Jerome (Ken Steadman), whose family has roots in high finance, as investment broker for his millions in crack profits. But then Rock leads a war party to Sugarpop's secret retreat and firebombs the place, killing Tina's sister and Ma
Grams (Jean Pace), matriarch of the clan. Out for revenge, Sugarpop's ragtag squadron takes to the skies and rains destruction on Gratz's old-style army. A triumphant Sugarpop announces plans to close the crackhouses and go legit.
Technical credits hug the bare minimum here. But this straight-to-video street opera is set apart by its almost dizzying display of racial identity--a rambunctious, elbows-out, barnstorming black nationalism. The final credits include congratulations to no less than 20 African-American
filmmakers--everyone from Charles Burnett, John Singleton, and Ernest Dickerson to obscurities like Rowell Foster--ending with Fanaka himself. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: Director Jamaa Fanaka, originator of the PENITENTIARY series, goes the pulp route in STREET WARS, an urban gangsta saga with an odd TOP GUN twist. Despite inferior production values and a dubious crosscutting technique, its unfettered enthusiasm ultimately… (more)