Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Black Fist

The Action Mutant…
thinks “Albino Fist” won’t float in today’s film market.

Black Fist

review by Joe Burrows

In lieu of anything new to write, here’s a reminder that the new TAM Hall of Fame class will be put up soon. Those that were passed over during the first inductions and those featured in films I’ve reviewed since then will be considered. Then, they will get the prestigious honor of being included in an online photo folder with strange pics of other people. It’s as prestigious as it sounds. Just like the Oscars (and here, we forsake the three hours of musical & comedy numbers for YOU, the reader!).

On a more serious note, I would like to send out my condolences to Francine Fournier (pro wrestling valet and MySpace friend on the TAM page), who lost her father & older sister to cancer within days of each other. I have seen people in my own family lose battles with cancer & I can only imagine what its like to lose two loved ones within a matter of days. If anyone reads this, please send her a kind word. Keep her & her family in your thoughts and prayers in this trying time.

The Plot, as it was:
Richard Lawson plays Leroy Fisk, a black street tough out looking to make some money by street fighting for white gangster Logan (Robert Burr). After proving himself, Fisk starts getting static from crooked, racist cop Heineken (Dabney Coleman), who expects Fisk to play ball and give him his cut of the winnings. Fisk continues to buck the system so the mob responds by blowing him up his car…only, his pregnant wife is in the car instead of him when said blowing up takes place. In short, some honkies are about to die horrible, horrible deaths!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Though it doesn’t turn the genre on its ear or anything (think Hard Times crossed with Death Wish, with a predominately African American cast), Black Fist is moderately better than its low budget, Blaxpoitation pedigree would have you believe. Though it has all of the trappings you would expect a flick like it to have (dated dialogue, bad editing, etc.), it has a few good things going for it. Lawson (sounding like Jules from Pulp Fiction at times) gives a game performance & is better than your usual B-Movie leading man is in a low grade effort. Of course, most of the choice lines & scenes go to Coleman, as he’s about as smarmy as smarmy can get. If there was an Oscar back then for “Best Portrayal of a Redneck/Racist cop in a Blaxpoitation feature”, ol’ Dabney would have won it hands down here! His mere presence elevates things when they begin to slow down, which admittedly happens before the key tragedy kicks in. As the main villain, Burr is more ordinary & atypical of a BX-poitation baddie and the other thugs fall in that same line. That distinction may still be better than Phillip Michael Thomas’ (Tubbs in the iconic TV series Miami Vice), who has the honor of giving TWO distinctly overblown performances (as best friend Fletch & pimp Boom Boom). The flick also has some decent fight scenes going for it, as they aren’t overblown & are more grounded than one would expect. Everything goes pretty uniformly until the end, which is definitely a memorable curveball to say the least. Suffice to say, the ending is one of the few unexpected touches that makes Black Fist a pretty watchable time killer.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Pro Wrestlers Hardboiled Haggerty (Battle Creek Brawl) and Pak Song (billed as “Pak Son” here) appear as street fighters. There’s one in the credits listed simply as “Earl”, who somewhat resembles Earl Maynard (the Jamaican fighter from BCB) but I can’t say for sure that it’s the same man.

Body Count/Violence: 10. It’s a film that’s partly about street fighting so it’s a safe bet there’s gonna be some brawling going on. It’s not terribly bloody, with the messiest thing being Moose (Haggerty) getting his head rammed through a car window. There are also some explosions, after-the-fact-deaths and a gunshot to the head but the fights are the obvious draw.

Sexuality/Nudity: Two topless scenes, one gratuitous one by a nameless white chick & one during an attempted rape scene. Women are slapped around quite a bit in this one, which is likely to turn off today’s politically correct audiences.

Language/Dialogue: Pretty crude actually, with more than a few racial slurs thrown in with the strong profanity.

How bad was it?:
Not much on the critical front, as the positive response was slightly more prevalent than the negative. Lawson & Coleman definitely got most of the raves.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Centaur Films distributed Black Fist in America & released it in February of 1975. No budget or box office figures are known for it. It is available on several public domain sites and can be bought for cheap on DVD (though picture quality may differ, depending on the video distributor).

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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