Poppa Byrd is one tough old dude (played by one of the best voice-over actors ever, Scatman Crothers). He runs the baddest dojo in the whole city. Unfortunately, Poppa Byrd is a gambler, see. He owes Pinky and his gang some money, and they’re the wrong people to owe some money to. Pinky is pissed, and he’s coming to collect. When they get there, they offer to take Byrd’s dojo in exchange for his debts, but when he doesn’t see eye to eye, he takes a double neck punch straight into heaven. Wrong move, brotha! See, Byrd has a star pupil who just happens to be be one of the baddest mutha’s (shut yo mouth!) in town… and his name is Black Belt Jones!
Black Belt Jones, or Belt, or Jones, or which ever one of the half-dozen names they call him opens the film by taking out a whole gaggle of bad dudes. He slams them through a cop’s windshield and any other breakable surface that can be found on a car. But these guys just keep coming, so Jones (played by Jim Kelly) shows us why he’s the numero uno brotha you call in sticky situations. He unloads with a fist and foot of fury that even Bruce Lee would be proud of. Belt finishes the job and takes off in his yellow sports-Gremlin and the only one left standing is a displeased cop who has returned from the donut shop to find a dozen thugs spralled all over his car.
Displease over his master’s death Belt finds Byrd’s daughter Sydney and after learn about who took care of Byrd’s debts, they join forces to karate kick Pinky and his gang’s asses. Do Black Belt and Sydney know what they’re in for? Pinky has mob connections, and these bad ass brotha’s mean business. Black Belt and his gang double cross the mob by robbing Peter to pay Paul, and cause a bunch of problems in the process. Someone’s gonna get hurt, but I have a feeling you’ll have to wait for the bubbly finale to find out who comes out on top.
Sean: Ok, I had heard a lot about this movie, and it had been in my collection for a while, but I hadn’t ever watched it. I knew Jim Kelly mostly from his work on Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, and Three The Hard Way, so I was curious to see Black Belt Jones. Let’s just say it was as ridiculous as I had hoped it to be. The story is really simple, and the first half borderlines on repetitive. You end up watching Byrd’s students fighting Pinky and his mobsters over and over again, and by the time you get to the second half and the mob connection in there, you almost forget that there was anything to do with mobsters in this movie at all.
Monkeyface: Jim Kelly was my favorite character in Enter the Dragon, so I was excited to see what he could do in a staring role… and I wasn’t disappointed. I had seen the opening few minutes on a makeshift trailer where Belt jumps off of a car onto a thug while his theme music plays and it caught my attention. I was happy to see that Sean had a copy of this and the rest of the movie didn’t disappoint. Black Belt is just a cool dude, he can throw down, drives a sweet ride, and knows how to satisfy the ladies!
Sean: Just like any blaxploitation movie, every stereotype that can be played on is fair game. The mobsters are obviously Italian, and they sit around eating pasta and making wine all day. The Don, Don Steffano looks like a lighter skinned Johnny Mathis, without the voice, but with the same 70’s mullet. The rest of the gang doesn’t fit the stereotype. They look like they tried to get on the bus for the nearest NASCAR event, but ended up at a movie set instead. These hicks get kicked around like Olympic soccer balls all the while wearing the t-shirts of their Jr. High alma mater.
Monkeyface: I’ve seen movies with tons of fighting extras before, but when these guys came out in the t-shirts from their summer camps I was in awe. It seemed like they saw a real fight break out and decided to get their “Kung-Fu Merit Badge” right on the spot. If only someone would have told them they were on a movie set and it was Jim Kelly throwing blows they might have changed their minds. But this whole movie was filled with action, and the producers didn’t just go for a realistic feel, they went over the top with some things. There were some scenes where you would see Belt throw the exact same punch 10 tens just to prove how much of a badass this guy was. It was a little crazy, but got a good chuckle out of me anyways.
Sean: Jim Kelly gets down, and you can’t get mad at him for that, hell you’re probably watching the movie for that anyhow. And let’s face it, you’re probably not watching this for the story, so after a little stretch where you’re not too sure where this movie is going it kicks into full action mode. Thankfully, everything stays pretty exciting with the trampolines, the laughable technology used to fool the mob, and the slippery malfunctioning car wash where 7 guys somehow get stuffed into the back of a garbage truck with out getting compacted. This one deserves 3 neck punches out of 5.
Monkeyface: I’m really suprised that Jim Kelly never went on to make more popular movies. The man isn’t going to win any Oscars, but has a ton of pizaz and the sweetest fro in town! I was glad I was finally able to see this movie. The story was a little shallow, but that certainly isn’t why I watched it. The action is plentiful, the laughs come in all shapes and sizes, and who doesn’t love Scatman Crothers?!? I would also give it 3 pimped out afros out of 5.