Drab, sexist, and unfocused, this would-be comedy about pool hustlers features James Coburn in his familiar charming-rogue groove, complete with the glorious salt-and-pepper perm that he sported for many years. (In fact, two separate scenes showcase Coburn's hair-care regimen, because he works a flat iron in one vignette and tucks his precious coiffure beneath a shower cap in another.) The storyline is a colorless mixture of gambling-flick clichés, and the characterizations are as one-dimensional as the narrative. Nonetheless, Coburn does what he can to infuse the movie with energy, and the plot skips along from one situation to the next at a fairly rapid pace. So while it would be a stretch to call The Baltimore Bullet interesting, the picture is basically watchable, and pool fans will enjoy cameos by real-life professional players as well as scenes featuring wild trick shots, some of which Coburn performs on-camera. There’s also a bizarre supporting performance by onetime blaxploitation luminary Calvin Lockhart, who sports a giant white Afro and a ladies’ dressing robe to play a crook named “Snow White.”
When the story begins, veteran hustler Nick Casey (Coburn), whose nickname is “The Baltimore Bullet,” ekes out a living alongside his young partner, Billie Joe Robbins (Bruce Boxleitner), a headstrong stud with a bad habit of losing all his money in poker games. The men are thoroughly sleazy, using an old clipping of their sole appearance in Sports Illustrated to score with bimbos. (Typically misogynistic moment: Billie Joe loses a bet by groping a waitress’ massive breasts and confirming they’re real instead of silicone.) Eventually, word reaches Nick that an old nemesis, The Deacon (Omar Sharif), has been released from prison, so Nick and Billie Joe head to New Orleans, where they plan to enter a pool contest in order to win enough money for a high-stakes rematch with The Deacon. Along the way to New Orleans, the hustlers befriend singer-songwriter Carolina Red (Ronnee Blakeley, a long way from Robert Altman’s Nashville) and get into a hassle with the aforementioned Snow White, occasioning a chase scene through an amusement-park funhouse.
Lighthearted but witless, the script by John Brascia and Robert Vincent O'Neill strives for madcap excitement but instead delivers disassociated moments that lack both sparkle and substance. It's impossible to care what happens to the self-serving characters, and the movie ventures off track so many times that one can't even ride the momentum of the central plot all the way to the finish. Worse, incoherence rears its head with considerable frequency, adding muddiness to the lengthy list of the movie's shortcomings.
The Baltimore Bullet: FUNKY