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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
Solid genre film; cool but nothing particularly special
Mr T. (no, a different one) runs a small pool hall but his main work is as a local fixer and investigator. T gets approached by two local gang leaders – they run a joint craps game and they are getting hit by unknown others, robbing them and getting away clean. T agrees to investigate but nothing is as it seems and soon T finds himself in the middle of a gang war with the police looking at him for every body dropped.
Like many films of this genre and period, you could pretty much play bingo with a card full of things you expect to find. Trouble Man starts out strong in this regard; a soul soundtrack from Marvin Gaye, a tough black lead that the ladies love and the men respect/fear, villainous whites and so on; it does what you expect from blaxploitation, the only question is whether it does anything good with them. The answer is "sort of". The film has a decent enough plot and plenty of action but it delivers it too flatly and without enough genuine danger. T is cool and tough but it would have been good for him to at least break a sweat at some point. As it is everything can be handled and this smooth as silk effect means I didn't get too involved since I knew everything would always be fine.
The delivery is solid despite this, with sharp images and decent sets. The acting varies. Hooks is cool but doesn't quite have the presence I wanted – he is a bit too gruff without the charisma to back it up. Winfield is good as Chalky and plays well through the film. Bill Henderson is solid in support, as is Harris (who you'll recognize from Bond movie Live and Let Die). The goons do their thing but generally the main cast are OK – by the genre standards anyway.
Quite a decent genre film then; I would have liked it to do more than just tick boxes (which is sort of what it feels like it is doing) but it has enough solid moments about it to make it watchable if not actually memorable or particularly special.
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