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TROUBLE MAN (1972) **

Robert Hooks stars as the badass “Mr. T”. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that a certain star of Rocky 3 might’ve stolen his name from this character. Nah, I pity the fool that’d do something like that.

Anyway. Mr. T is a bad man, but he does good things for the neighborhood. He goes after negligent slumlords and accepts bail bonds from people who can’t afford to go through the proper channels. A friend in need, Chalky (Paul Winfield) hires Mr. T to find out who’s been busting up his illegal crap games. When Chalky kills the gunman, T is blamed for the murder. Since the stick-up man works for the local kingpin Mr. Big (Julius Harris), Mr. T has to clear his name to both the cops AND Mr. Big.

Trouble Man was included in book The 50 Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way), but I can think of dozens of other Blaxploitation action flicks much more deserving of inclusion. The cinematography is crisp, and the action is well-staged. The opening pool hustling sequence is badass enough to keep it far away from ever receiving a Golden Turkey Award. (The same goes for the cool theme song by Marvin Gaye.)

Still, it ain’t all that great. Once the plot is set into motion, the pacing gets increasingly bogged down. All the double-crossing and triple-crossing is clumsily plotted and ineffectively executed. The flick also suffers from a lack of action, which mostly just bookends the film. Hooks’ performance carries it as far as it will go, but in the end, Trouble Man just isn’t really worth the trouble.

Hooks’ son, Kevin went on to direct the classic Black Dog.

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