BLACK BELT JONES
* * * * * (1974, 85 minutes, Rated R)
Jim Kelly, Superstar
Here’s an odd fact about me: Whenever I have people over to play cards, I like to have Enter the
Dragon playing in the background. Dunno why. Maybe it’s that the soundtrack gets me all pumped
up. Or maybe it’s listening to Jim Kelly steal every scene he’s in.
With his exaggerated karate sounds, his
gigantic afro and his too cool for school
attitude, Jim Kelly’s Williams is a big key
to the success of Enter the Dragon. It
shouldn’t have been much of a surprise
that the director of Enter the Dragon
(Robert Clouse, director of Gymkata!)
would team up with Kelly to make the
funkalarious blaxploitation kung fu flick,
Black Belt Jones.
The story: The Mafia and their
outrageous Italian accents are in
cahoots with the mayor to build a big
civic center in the middle of the city. Only
one last building is in their way -- a
karate school run by “Papa Bird” (played
|Jim Kelly (above), too busy lookin' good.
|by Scatman Crothers who, depending on your age, was Louie in “Chico and the Man,” the
telepathic chef in The Shining or the voice of Jazz on “The Transformers”). It seems that Scatman's
Papa Bird is always getting himself into trouble, leading his girlfriend to tell him, “I’m gonna slap
the black off of you!”
The mob leans on a local drug boss, Pinky, to get that school for them, quickly leading to some
black-on-black karate violence! Pinky doesn’t take too kindly to being beat up by a bunch of karate
students, so he and his gang return at midnight. Unfortunately, waiting for him is star pupil-turned-
government agent Black Belt Jones! And yes, that is the character’s name.
BBJ opts to have some fun with Pinky and his gang:
That really pissed off Pinky (who is probably pissed off enough for having a nickname like "Pinky"),
and if you’ve ever seen a kung fu film before, you already know that Papa Bird isn’t long for this
world. After a funeral that strangely features lots and lots of karate posing, we meet Papa Bird’s
long-lost daughter, Sydney, who has just inherited the school. Naturally, she’s foxy and a karate
The conflict between Pinky and the karate school continues to escalate with the kidnapping of one
of the students. BBJ springs into action, reluctantly bringing Sydney in tow -- when he tells her to
stay behind and do the dishes, she pulls out a pistol and shoots the dishes.
BBJ and his government handler start to put the pieces together, and BBJ comes up with a way to
take out both the Mafia and Pinky’s gang. It’s a strange scheme involving girls on trampolines, fire
extinguishers, grappling hooks and a Polaroid camera. Then, this happens:
BBJ and Sydney also celebrate with some kung fu foreplay. “I’m gonna make you sweat one
way… and then the other,” BBJ tells Sydney as they chase each other around a beach, smashing
guitars, popping balloons and kicking a couple out of their tent before finally getting’ it on.
It all builds to a big battle in a municipal car wash, where BBJ fights Pinky’s gang and the mob
among a flood of suds. Sydney throwing each defeated baddie into a garbage truck is a nice