Zebra Force/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Zebra Force
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Eight ‘black’ men execute a series of high-stakes robberies, but who are these nefarious black men? Where did they come from? And are they really black? That’s the question at the core of Zebra Force, a clever high-stakes heist film with a final-act race-switch twist.

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Unusual; about forty minutes into this well-done actioner you’ll realize that there are no speaking roles for women—only a few babes in the background of a casino shot—Zebra Force is decidedly a man’s film: and there are many men to keep track of.

There’s Lt. Johnson (Mike Lane) a horribly disfigured, armless but exceedingly functional returning Vietnam Veteran; Earl Lovington, Rockne (Black Samson) Tarkington (ain’t no “love” in him) an African American mob associate tired of having to prove himself to “whitey”; Carmine Longo (Richard X. Slattery) an Italian mob henchman (channeling every nuance and inflection seen in The Godfather); and in a surprise third-reel cameo, Timothy (The Dynamite Brothers) Brown as Jim Cougar, the shrewd-dude with a secret that turns the entire film upside down.

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Directed by Joe Tornatore with a script by Robert Leon and Annette Lombard, this film-on-a-budget (reportedly $185,000) is remarkable. Transformation makeup, meticulously orchestrated fight sequences (the film-opening casino ambush is a winner), Vietnam war flashbacks, slow motion photography, and the machine gun/car crash/helicopter/grenade-throwing conclusion are all sensational. So are the sets, costumes, locations and the stellar work by stunt men—be it tumbling down stairs, smashing through a window, flipping through the air and landing in a pool, or twitching, electrocuted and hanging from a live wire—the stunt men are on top of their game.

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Talky at times and hindered by more than one flat performance, Zebra Force’s audacious story idea, superior execution and theatrical presentation in the Todd-AO Wide Screen process (rare for exploitation films) make it a must see.


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Josiah Howard is the author of four books including Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide (now in a fourth printing). His writing credits include articles for the American Library of Congress, The New York Times and Readers Digest. A veteran of more than one hundred radio broadcasts, Howard also lectures on cinema and is a frequent guest on entertainment news television. Visit his Official Website.

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