Monday, April 26, 2010

Black Belt Jones - 1.5/5

Remember Jim Kelly? No not the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills the martial arts actor! If not that's okay as his career is only a footnote in both the martial arts and blaxploitation genres. He got his quick 15 minutes of fame when he starred as the afro bearing martial artist in the Bruce Lee classic "Enter the Dragon". He gained a small following because of that film and that small following gave rise to Kelly making a few god-awful martial arts/blaxploitation films.

The first of these abominations that came out of the ashes of "Enter the Dragon" was a little film called "Black Belt Jones". Warner Brothers even hired "Enter the Dragon" director Robert Clouse to helm this Jim Kelly vehicle. The result proved that Robert Clouse was a one film man as every film he directed from "Black Belt Jones" on was just awful (some in a good way though).

Warner Bros also didn't spend much time with the script as it is a complete rip off of the Bruce Lee classic Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection). Jim Kelly's martial arts school comes under attack from the local mafia. The mafia wants to buy the building and Kelly's teacher refuses. Not surprising Kelly's teacher gets himself killed and it's up to the students, led by Kelly, to take down the mafia.

I forgot about the love interest. How could I as it is the most boring, cliché love interests ever to grace a martial arts film. The daughter of the teacher shows up after his death and, not surprisingly, falls in love with our hero.

The film ends in a "climatic" martial arts showdown at a carwash. Yes, a carwash with soup suds waist deep. Having the climatic martial arts fight at a carwash I will admit is "unique", but it seemed as a desperate measure by the filmmakers to try something different and it just comes off silly.

In the realm of martial arts and blaxploitation films, Black Belt Jones comes out extremely weak. The story is unoriginal and uninteresting and so is Jim Kelly as our hero. I never really felt myself rooting for him has he just came off as a sinewgate arrogant ass. The film does entertaining enough in a B-movie vein but martial arts fans are better off searching someplace else for good martial arts thrills.

I also forgot to mention this film inspired a sequel titled Hot Potato. Yes, Hot Potato. As you can tell by that ridiculous title it's even worse than Black Belt Jones.

Written by: Eric Reifschneider

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