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Raymond St. Jacques,
It seems that masked men are knocking over the floating crap games of Chalky and Pete. Chalky and Pete hire the cool, loose, elegant Mr. T to fix things. Then, the masked manipulators set up the death of a collector for a rival gang lord. It looks like it's up to T to keep a gang war from breaking out, keep the police off his back, and earn his fee from Chalky and Pete. Then things get complicated. A pool hall, a boxing gym, women's well-furnished apartments, and the mean streets of L.A. give T room to sort out what seems from what is.Written by
There's nothing particularly distinguished about the blaxploitation actioner "Trouble Man", but it does entertain. A bad ass Robert Hooks plays a character named Mr. T - around a decade before somebody else made that moniker famous - in the story of a cool, calm, and collected problem solver. He's hired by two criminals, Chalky (Paul Winfield) and Pete (Ralph Waite, a long way from 'The Waltons'), to find out the identities of the thieves who have been holding up their gambling operations.
Mr. T finds out that things aren't as they seem. We in the audience get tipped off as to where things are heading, early on. Ordinarily this would present a problem as the viewer might get tired of waiting for our hero to play catch up, but T is such a good and smart character that we don't much mind. In the meantime, director Ivan Dixon (also an actor in things like "Car Wash") serves up respectable doses of action and suspense. The screenplay concocted by executive producer John D.F. Black is fairly uncomplicated and consistently enjoyable. The dialogue is often quite amusing. As with so many films in this genre, one of the greatest joys turns out to be the music score. The man responsible for the score in this instance is the soul legend Marvin Gaye.
The largely black cast is full of terrific actors. Hooks displays a lot of poise in the lead role, and one may wish that he had had more starring vehicles over the years. Paula Kelly is appealing as his loving girlfriend Cleo. William Smithers does fine as the disapproving white cop who is suspicious of T, who doesn't appear to have a steady source of income but has nice things. Winfield is excellent, as is a perfectly slimy Waite. Julius Harris lends his authoritative presence as a crime boss - unimaginatively named Big. Other familiar faces include singer / actor Bill Henderson, Stack Pierce, Lawrence Cook, Virginia Capers, Tracy Reed, Felton Perry, John Crawford, Gordon Jump, Jeannie Bell, and Harrison Page.
The rousing finale and sense of humour help to make this well worth a viewing.
Seven out of 10.
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