Black Belt Jones (1974)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/29/17
Director: Robert Clouse
Fight Coordinator: Robert Wall
Cast: Jim Kelly, Gloria Hendry, Scatman Crothers, Alan Weeks, Malik Carter, cameo by Ted Lange

"That son of a bitch threw his panties at me?!?"

Hot on the heels of Bruce Lee's "Enter The Dragon" (1973), Jim Kelly, Robert Clouse, and Robert Wall teamed up again for this action farce. Jim Kelly shines throughout and gives an excellent performance, despite the awful material and lackluster direction. The Mafia wants to buy a hot piece of real estate, but the owner of a karate school (Scatman Crothers) refuses to sell his building. When he turns up dead, his daughter Sydney (Gloria Hendry) and Black Belt Jones (Jim Kelly) show up to investigate and get revenge. Naturally, a lot of karate punishment gets dished out courtesy of Jones, or BB as they like to call him, and Sydney puts up a good fight as well.

Unfortunately, even though the film is fun to watch, the action scenes are downright awful. This is by no means Kelly's fault, as he's in top form and looks great, but the other stunt performers are lacking and the cinematography and editing are poor. There's also an extended love scene that is cringe-inducing and difficult to endure. You really have to wonder what the filmmakers were thinking with that. Interestingly, the most entertaining aspect of the film is the writing, which is full of hilariously inappropriate dialog and outrageous urban slang. Everything is lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek (like Scatman Crothers as an ass-grabbing karate master?), and the funky soundtrack emphasizes the film's goofy tone. Groin punches are popular, and the exaggerated and overused canned sound effects become quickly tiresome. Alan Weeks gives a wonderful performance as a karate instructor, and Malik Carter makes a charismatic villain. While it's probably Kelly's best work outside of "Enter The Dragon", it's unfortunate the film doesn't take itself more seriously, and that more attention and care wasn't spent on the action scenes.