Black Belt Jones/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
When an undercover agent is murdered while trying to infiltrate a mafia money scheme, the government bring in Kung Fu master Black Belt Jones (Jim Kelly) to take his place to find the hidden cash. Jones hears about the circumstances surrounding the operation, but relents at getting involved because hes no jive turkey who's gonna be one of many to be killed by the mob. It turns out the mafia, led by Don Steffano (Andre Phillipe) want to build a civic center in South Central Los Angeles, only there's one building right in the middle of the planned construction site that they don't own that must be removed. It just so happens its the very martial arts school where our hero Black Belt Jones works. The school is owned by an old fellow named Poppa Byrd (Scatman Crothers). Since the mafia don't want to get blamed for taking out Poppa Byrd's school, they instead hire one of their own clients they supply drugs to named Pinky (Malik Carter) to do the dirty work. After getting the message that it's either do the deed or die, Pinky and his thugs quickly pay a visit to Poppa's school to scare him into leaving, but in classic Kung Fu style, they end up getting their asses kicked by the students. This creates even more tension and after Pinky and his thugs accidentally kill Poppa Byrd one night, the stakes are raised even higher. Enter Sydney (Gloria Hendry), Poppa's estranged daughter, who wants to find out exactly who killed her father. After finding out about Pinky, she pays a visit to his pool hall, where she confronts his soldiers and proceeds to wipe the floor with them. Now that Sydney has made it clear she's out for revenge, Pinky must come up with a new way to get the school closed. He decides to kidnap the youngest Kung Fu student Quincy (Eric Laneuville) and hold him hostage until he gets what he wants from Jones and Sydney. Jones then puts together a group to get into Don Steffano's mansion. Their plan is to to steal the money to use to pay off Pinky, and when the mafia find out it's their own stolen money, they'll get rid of Pinky for them...
If you've seen Enter The Dragon, you'll know that Jim Kelly has his own brand of humor which he mixes with his blazing martial arts talent. Well, Black Belt Jones basically expands on that and injects it into every scene. None of the characters are overly serious, even the villains are sort of goofy, whether it's Pinky or the mafia soldiers that work for Don Steffano. The dialogue is very funny/witty and it's one of the main strengths in the movie besides the over the top action. One of the most exciting characters in the film is Gloria Hendry's Sydney who you wouldn't expect to be such a tough badass. She really has a lot of energy and makes a nice foil for Kelly's Black Belt Jones. It has to be noted that the score and sound effects by Luchi DeJesus and Dennis Coffey are among the funkiest from the Blaxploitation era. The movie is filled with intense brass horns mixed with Kelly's Kung Fu "Ki-ays" and laid over the sound of piercing bone crunches and snaps during the fight scenes. This was also the first Blaxploitation-Kung Fu crossover and who better to kick it off than the legendary Jim "Dragon" Kelly? For those viewers new to the 70s Blaxploitation film craze, this is one of the essentials that you should check out. Recommended!
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.