Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Tattoo Connection (1978)

Weirdly, some of the most authoritative reference sources available describe this picture as Black Belt Jones 2, perpetuating a misrepresentation created by the picture’s after-market exhibitors—most copies of the movie’s DVD bear the bogus sequel signifier. Yet The Tattoo Connection is unrelated to Black Belt Jones (1974) beyond the fact that both are martial-arts flicks starring Jim Kelly. Whereas Black Belt Jones is an American production with English-language dialogue, The Tattoo Connection is a Hong Kong production in which all actors are dubbed, badly, into English no matter what languages they spoke on set. Further, Kelly plays a dude named Lucas, whereas in Black Belt Jones he portrays (you guessed it!) a martial artist named Black Belt Jones. (Adding to the confusion: the awful 1976 Kelly movie Hot Potato, which isn't precisely a sequel to Black Belt Jones but stars Kelly as a martial artist named Jones.) Anyway, The Tattoo Connection is a turgid thriller about Hong Kong criminals who steal a valuable diamond, then scheme and squabble among themselves. Meanwhile, an American martial artist (Kelly) is sent to track down the diamond and, if need be, chop and kick and punch his way through bad guys while he recovers the stolen gem. Notwithstanding the terrible soundtrack (on which bad dubbing is accompanied by chintzy music), The Tattoo Connection has passable production values, with the lighting in particular more professionally executed than one might expect in a low-budget chop-socky joint. Alas, all of the genre’s usual problems are evident: interminably long fight scenes, muddy storytelling, terrible acting. There’s also a significant sleaze element, because the plot involves a twisted love triangle between mobster Mr. Lu (Sing Chen), his trusted lieutenant Tin-hao (Tao-ling Tan), and the stripper (Nami Misaki) they both want. This subplot “justifies” copious nude scenes by Misaki, culminating in a rape sequence that’s intercut with shots of a powerful racecar. (Because, y’know, the stripper revs the rapist’s engine.) Classy!

The Tattoo Connection:  LAME

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