The movie begins with a couple of white bikers harassing a young, black vagrant. He is Too Sweet (Leon Isaac Kennedy), and he's more annoyed than frightened by the bikers' antics. Indeed, one of Too Sweet's defining characteristics is his preternatural self-confidence and serenity in the face of danger. Who is Too Sweet, and how did he get that way? When we first meet him, he's a drifter, living in a makeshift tent by the side of the road. What does he do? Where does he come from? Where's he going? Too Sweet feels like an archetype, but an archetype of what?
Surprisingly good, or perhaps good for being so surprising Coming at the end of the blaxpo cycle, Penitentiary is intense, well-acted on the whole, and delivers on the exploitation goods. I'm surprised its reputation is so mixed. It takes a little investment of time early on to get into, but it is well worth the effort.