This movie is said to be the reason why blaxploitation films began, so I would be remiss if I didn't talk about this film.
The overall story is VERY good.The movie, however, shows its shoestring budget.
Sweetback is a sex worker. He puts on shows with women while an audience watches and cheers for him.
There has been a murder and the public is clamoring for justice. To appease the public, two detectives talk to Beetle, owner of the whorehouse where Sweetback performs. They ask Beetle for one of his men. They want to bring in someone for appearances' sake. Beetle gives them Sweetback.
While they are on their way to the police station, the two detectives have to help some of their fellow police break up a black demonstration. The detectives arrest a young black man and put him in the car with Sweetback.
The detectives drive to some remote location and begin to beat the young black man. Sweetback can't stand to see it, so he takes a pair of handcuffs and uses them like brass knuckles to beat the detectives to death.
The man is appreciative and asks Sweetback where they're going. "What's this we shit?"
So... Sweetback is on the run. He's trying to get to Mexico. No one will help him. The police would rather kill him instead of trying to bring him back alive.
Can he make it?
So the story is pretty good. The way it's the way it's shot that is very odd. The way it's cut together can be confusing at points and there are times when the dialogue is repeated so much that you just want to stop watching. That point is when the police are questioning Sweetback's family members (later in the movie).
You can fast forward through a lot of the end chase sequence. Don't skip it, but you're not missing any relevant dialogue and seeing him run at high speed makes me laugh.
This movie gave an up-and-coming band a big start. Earth, Wind, and Fire performed for the movie. Melvin Van Peebles (director, producer, writer, star, editor, etc.) didn't have any money to advertise the film. He chose to release an album as a means of promoting the movie. It paid off. The budget was $500,000 and the film made $4.1 million.
I suggest this film to you in a reluctant way. The story is good, but the editing of the film is rather shitty.
The story is good enough to save it and is enough reason for you to see it, but there are elements of the film that really hurt the overall quality of the movie.