Featuring a noxious mixture of cartoonish action scenes and unfunny comedy bits, this martial-arts adventure has strong connections to Black Belt Jones (1974), but it’s not precisely a sequel. Whereas the previous film is a straight-up blaxploitation drama that happens to feature karate, Hot Potato aspires to a frothy level of action-adventure farce. Real-life martial artist Jim Kelly, who played the title character in Black Belt Jones, stars in Hot Potato as a man simply named “Jones,” and no references are made to events in the previous film. (One suspects that producers Paul Heller and Fred Weintraub, who were involved with both films, might have been contractually prohibited from calling their follow-up film Black Belt Jones 2.) Set in a fictional Asian country, Hot Potato concerns a criminal kingpin named Carter Rangoon (Sam Hiona). Carter’s thugs kidnap June Dunbar (Judith Brown), the daughter of a U.S. senator, so the senator enlists secret agent Jones (Kelly) to attempt a rescue. Together with goofy accomplices Johnny Chicago (Geoffrey Benney) and Rhino (George Memmoli), Jones grabs June from Carter’s clutches—or so he thinks. Turns out Carter replaced June with a lookalike named Leslie (also played by Brown), so most of the movie comprises a long jungle trek during which Jones and his buddies cavort with female companions while villains stalk them. Hot Potato is filled with annoying sound effects, the sorts of pops and whistles normally associated with Keystone Kops-style comedies, and the action scenes are deflated by weak attempts at humor—a remote-controlled toy car that hides a bomb, an uncooperative elephant named Butch, and so on. Additionally, the filmmakers periodically forget that Hot Potato is lighthearted fare and try to generate actual thrills. (Example: a painfully dumb sequence of characters mired in quicksand.) Kelly is as uninteresting here as he is in his other pictures, even though his athleticism is impressive, and the whole movie feels like a brainless knock-off of 1973’s Enter the Dragon. FYI, the confusion over whether Hot Potato is a real sequel to Black Belt Jones is compounded by the existence of a totally unrelated Jim Kelly movie called The Tattoo Connection (1978), which is sometimes deceptively marketed as Black Belt Jones 2.
Hot Potato: LAME