The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Announcement

Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning sometimes the images are blurred with a watermark and you have to click on the image to see them. That's an aesthetic issue, but still annoying. One workaround I've found is to go to the url bar and add "https://" before the address, then hit enter.


Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Thursday, May 21, 2020

One Down, Two to Go (1982)

Back in February I had made a pledge to get more Williamson on the site. That was back in February, and now it's May, so it's hard to say how well I'm doing. One thing about this film is it was also featured in a podcast episode that I did with Jon Cross of the After Movie Diner, Miscellaneous Plumbing Fixtures, and Cross Talk, so you can listen to that episode for more insight; also if you go through his archive AMDs, he's actually interviewed Williamson, which is a great listen as well.

One Down, Two to Go is the de facto sequel to Three the Hard Way, and in it, Jim Kelly gets caught up in a mob boss who's trying to fix a karate tournament at New Jersey's Brendan Byrne Arena. Richard Roundtree tries to help, but he's taken out of commission too. That leaves their friends, Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, to come in and save the day. The New Jersey mobsters won't know what hit them.



If you compare this to Three the Hard Way, that one feels more like a Hollywood film; while this one, directed by Fred Williamson, feels like he took everything he learned in Italy and made the best film he could make despite his budgetary restrictions. Part of the reason he made this was the fact that Brown, Kelly, and Roundtree weren't getting the work they should have in Hollywood, and I think you can feel that in this, that Williamson is almost like "you guys shouldn't have to be in one of my movies, you should be with all those other stars." For us, of course, we reap the benefits, because we get them all in this flick, but we also know that Williamson is right. Kelly should have been Chuck Norris; Brown should have been getting more dramatic roles that showed off his talents; and Roundtree was every bit the leading man that his white male counter parts who were getting the biggest roles at that time were. This is as much an indictment on Hollywood, as it is a fun action romp, which I think is part of genius of Williamson as a filmmaker that never gets recognized like it should.


Williamson is one of four directors in the Hall of Fame (we don't count Dolph because he hasn't directed as many), but I think out of the four, I've done the fewest of his directed pieces here, which is bad of me. His films were ahead of the curve in a lot of ways, but in particular something like this predates what ends up happening on a much bigger scale about 5 years later, and that's having action-heavy films that do their damage primarily in the home viewing market. In a sense this is like a proto-DTV film. The reality is, we don't have the action genre as we know it, especially the DTV action genre, if it wasn't for Williamson and his innovative approaches to filmmaking--born out of necessity more than anything, but still innovative--which is a main reason why he's in the Hall of Fame.



The term "blaxploitation" is a loaded concept, and as Jon Cross explained when he was on the pod, any kind of " 'sploitation" is generally meant as a group of people, whether a nationality or ethnicity, in films that have exploitation elements like violence and sexuality. What we discussed further though, was that Hollywood took the term strictly as it was used with blaxploitation, and made that an excuse to dismiss a large pool of African American actors and actresses. Look at Pam Grier for example. Whenever a click-baity online magazine does their top ten lists of female action leads, it's full of Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson, but not only is Grier not at the top, she often doesn't make the lists. There is no ability to even have a list like that without Pam Grier's contributions, yet she doesn't get that credit because her contributions are written off by some as just "blaxploitation." It was because of that that Jon stressed, and I was in agreement, that a film like this shouldn't be watched with derision or ironically; but also these are contributions to the film industry that we need to celebrate more. And hopefully I can make that happen with more posts.

That being said, this movie has some really fun moments, which is ultimately what we're here for. Brown and Williamson have the chemistry that you want in a buddy flick, and the rural Jersey mobsters are plenty bad enough for us to want to watch them getting beat up by these two. They also do some call-backs to Three the Hard Way, like when they shoot without needing to reload. That's the thing, in having his messages and trying to make sure he was depicting African Americans in a positive light compared to what Hollywood usually did, he still knew how to make an enjoyable movie on a limited budget, which ultimately is what keeps people coming back.



Finally, the opening scene takes place at Brenden Byrne Arena, which is now the Izod Center. I never had a chance to see the Devils play there--in fact, I've only seen NHL games in two arenas, the old Boston Garden, and the new TD Bank Garden in Boston--but watching the Devils in their 90s-2000s heyday, it definitely looked like a fun place to see a game. Now they play at the Prudential Center in Newark, which you can see from the Newark train station as you pull in, so it's a little easier for someone like me without a car in Philly to get to--of course, I live a mile from where the Flyers play and haven't caught one of their games yet, so maybe I should start there.

And with that NHL digression it's time to wrap this up. You can currently stream this on Tubi, and I think it's very necessary, if only for the fact that it's a really fun time with some real greats on-screen getting after it. In fact, there's a good amount of Williamson's 80s stuff on Tubi, so I'll be taking my own advice and getting more of them myself.

For more info: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086051

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