Sunday, August 28, 2011

Black Belt Jones (1974)

Gene-splicing the blaxploitation and kung-fu genres was a smart move in terms of marketing, but Black Belt Jones is far less than the sum of its parts. There’s a significant kitsch factor thanks to scenes of black martial artists doing their thing with sky-high Afros atop their heads, but the flick is schlocky even by the low standards of the genres it bridges—the script is brainlessly derivative and the filmmaking is garishly mechanical. Real-life karate champ Jim Kelly, who achieved minor fame as a costar of Enter the Dragon (1973), stars as Black Belt Jones, a government operative/mercenary/whatever, since this is one of those B-movies in which dudes with prowess at kicking ass are constantly in demand from deep-pocketed employers. When Mafia bad guys decide to seize ownership of a property owned by Jones’ mentor, karate teacher Pop Byrd (Scatman Crothers), the Mafia sends African-American enforcer Pinky (Malik Carter) to intimidate Pop. Unfortunately, one of Pinky’s goons inadvertently kills Pop, sending Our Hero on an uninteresting vengeance mission that somehow involves breaking into a mob fortress and seizing photos the gangsters use for blackmail against political figures. Obviously, acting and story are not the big draws here, and Kelly is fine kicking and punching his way through fights, often in slow motion. Gloria Hendry is actually even more impressive as Sydney, a female martial artist who mows down villains alongside Jones. Additionally, the action stuff has a few glimmers of wit, like the funny moment when a victim gets thrown onto a trampoline, bounces upward, and lodges in the ceiling like a character in a Warner Bros. cartoon. So, if tongue-in-cheek martial arts mayhem gets your blood pumping, you might find fleeting amusement amid the tedium—but if not, chances are you’ll find Black Belt Jones thoroughly uninteresting. (FYI, the 1978 Jim Kelly movie The Tattoo Connection is not a sequel to this film, and in fact there is no sequel to Black Belt Jones, despite some video releases that misleadingly label The Tattoo Connection as Black Belt Jones 2.)

Black Belt Jones: LAME

1 comment:

akfilmgeek said...

There is a sequel. It's called HOT POTATO. He plays BLACK BELT JONES and it's actually directed by the writer of BLACK BELT JONES. :)