The Black Action Group (B.A.G.) has robbed a Mafia bookmaking operation. The Mafia, led by used car dealer Russ Capelli (Martin Landau, in his slumming it years), is less concerned with the money as they are with the fact that one of the militants, a Vietnam vet named Scott Gunn (Herbert Jefferson, Jr.), has also stolen a set of ledgers that could reveal every detail of their organization. Capelli sends the psychotic Ray Kriley (Bruce Glover, father of Crispin) on a mission to track down Scott and kill him.
What the Mafia didn’t count on is that Scott’s older brother, Gunn (Jim Brown), is the owner of Los Angeles’s hottest nightclub. When Scott approaches his brother, Gun tells him that he doesn’t care about the B.A.G. or any of their politics. Still, Gunn allows Scott to stash the ledgers at his club and to hide out at his place. When Scott still ends up getting murdered by Kriley, Gunn sets out to get revenge.
For the most part, Black Gunn is a standard blaxploitation movie with all of the usual elements, a cool nightclub, the mob, black militants,an anti-drug scene and a speech about why it’s important to not sell out to the man, and a hero played by an actor who may not have been able to show much emotion but who still radiated coolness. Not surprisingly, Jim Brown is the main attraction here and he delivers everything that his fans have come to expect from him. Blaxploitation regulars Bernie Case and Brenda Sykes also appear in the film. Casey plays the head of B.A.G. while Sykes is wasted in a one-note role as Gunn’s girlfriend. Among the villains, it’s fun to watch the glamorous Luciana Paluzzi plays a gangster’s niece and Bruce Glover is just weird enough to make Kriley interesting. Though Martin Landau would end his career with a deserved reputation for being one of America’s greatest character actors, he spent most of the 70s sleepwalking through roles in low-budget action and horror films and his performance in Black Gunn is no different. Having Capelli be both a car salesman and a gangster is a nice touch but otherwise, he’s just not that interesting of a character and Landau is only present to get a paycheck.
Black Gunn has some slow spots but the final shoot-out between the militants and the gangsters is exciting and so brutal that it will be probably take even the most jaded blaxploitation fan by surprise. Black Gunn is hardly a classic but, like its hero, it gets the job done.