In 1974, Jim Kelly starred in the classic blaxploitation martial arts flick Black Belt Jones. Four years later, he returned to star in The Tattoo Connection (aka Black Belt Jones 2), which even though it goes by the Black Belt Jones moniker, it has absolutely nothing to do with the first film. In fact, in this one Kelly plays a character named Lucas, and he’s a former CIA agent who’s been hired by an insurance company to recover the North Pole Star Diamond, which was stolen upon it’s arrival in Hong Kong.
If you were expecting to see another classic beat’em up with Kelly at the helm kicking ass and filling his trapper keeper with names, you’re going to be disappointed. While Kelly is the main star of this film, there are a lot of subplots that don’t have a whole lot to do with him. First, there’s Lu, who’s the big Chinese mob boss that’s calling all the shots behind this diamond theft. He wants to cut the diamond up so he can make easy money off of it. Next, there’s Tin-hao, one of Lu’s henchmen that really just wants to get out of the mob game and get away from it all with his girlfriend. There’s also George, the carrier of the diamond on it’s way to Hong Kong, who happens to be playing both sides of the fence. These are just a couple of loose ends with characters that blend into the background with no resolution. The film is more of a tale of the stolen diamond, and less about the characters involved. Too bad it’s just not that interesting.
All I’m looking for is a karate movie with some people punching and kicking each other. I’m not watching Jim Kelly for his oscar caliber acting, I’m watching it to see him kick some ass. Therein lies the problem, Kelly is in two fight scenes and he’s the marquee name! Thankfully there were plenty of nude Asian women to keep my attention, and they’re worth watching for. Also Bolo Yeung plays one of Lu’s henchmen, and he always makes a movie better, no matter what it’s about. I once saw a movie about a blind unicyclist who was trying to find a long lost father by joining what he thinks is a clown college – but was actually a gay porn set. The movie sucked but Bolo Yeung was in it as the caring clown/gay porn mentor. I gotta tell you, I felt a lot less dirty after watching it thanks to Bolo.
If you’re looking for a mindless kung-fu movie with loads of kicks, skip this one. If you’re looking for the great diamond caper, this isn’t it either. If you’re looking to Jim Kelly to kick ass… you get that, but you have to wait over an hour before he really gets going. By this point it should be pretty obvious it could have used more Jim Kelly and less storytelling. The Tattoo Connection gets 1.5 subplots out of 5.