Film Review: Detroit 9000 (1973)

Also known as: The Holy Hill Caper (working title), Detroit Heat (video title), Police Call 9000 (Canada), S.O.S. Black Guns (France), Call Detroit 9000 (UK & Ireland)
Release Date: August, 1973 (Detroit)
Directed by: Arthur Marks
Written by: Orville H. Hampton
Music by: Luchi de Jesus
Cast: Alex Rocco, Hari Rhodes, Vonetta McGee, Herb Jefferson Jr., Ella Edwards, Scatman Crothers

General Film Corporation, Rolling Thunder Pictures (1998 re-release), 106 Minutes

Review:

“Was this a honky caper to keep black power from taking over the state Senate?” – Reporter

Detroit 9000 was originally marketed as a blaxploitation film during the height of that genre’s run. In reality, it is less blaxploitation and more urban crime thriller.

It was never hugely successful but it had a resurgence in the late ’90s when Quentin Tarantino helped to get it in the public eye by sampling it on his Jackie Brown soundtrack and by helping to get it redistributed into some theaters. A DVD release followed that.

The film stars Alex Rocco and I love seeing him in his younger days. He’s a guy who I’ve appreciated in just about everything he’s done. Here, he plays a cop trying to do things by the book in a town full of corruption, crime and racial tension. His partner is black and played by Hari Rhodes. The two of them had a dynamic relationship that works well on screen.

You also get to see Vonetta McGee, one of the queens of blaxploitation cinema, and Scatman Crothers as a charismatic preacher.

The one thing that this film had working for it was the action. Sure, there are some flaws, like a noticeable squib on a guy’s neck before it blows open and that same guy firing an assault rifle in the most nonsensical way possible, but this picture is action heavy with a lot of gravitas.

It also feels gritty and real. While that was normal for urban movies of the era, this one just has an extra level of authenticity. It was filmed on location in Detroit and the city really is a character in this film in the same way that New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles really came to life in some of the top film-noir pictures of the 1940s.

I liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would. I’m a fan of blaxploitation flicks and while this isn’t a true blaxploitation picture, it was kind of better than that style’s average offering due to being more of a straight up crime picture. Yes, racial issues were at the forefront but this felt less like a political and social statement and more like a buddy cop action movie that just happened to take place in that cinematic landscape.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Cotton Comes to HarlemBlack CaesarThe MackTruck Turner and Bucktown.

Film Review: Three The Hard Way (1974)

Release Date: June 26th, 1974
Directed by: Gordon Parks Jr.
Written by: Eric Bercovici, Jerrold L. Ludwig
Music by: The Impressions
Cast: Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, Alex Rocco, Corbin Bernsen

Allied Artists Pictures Corporation, 89 Minutes (DVD), 105 Minutes (TV), 93 Minutes (theatrical)

Review:

Three The Hard Way is a film I have heard a lot about for several years. Philly rapper Bahamadia did a great song that referenced it on her first album. Other rappers and film buffs have also talked about it since I started paying attention to pop culture. Well, it wasn’t until now that I finally got to check it out.

The film is bad ass simply for the fact that it stars three bad asses from the height of the blaxploitation film era: Jim Brown (SlaughterBlack Gunn), Fred Williamson (Black CaesarBoss Nigger) and Jim Kelly (Black Belt JonesEnter The Dragon). All this movie needed was Rudy Ray Moore and Richard Roundtree and we could’ve had a 1970s black Expendables. That can still be made, right? Most of these guys are still alive, right?

The film sees these three men working together to stop a plot by white supremacists out to eliminate the black population by poisoning the water supply of major cities with a chemical that is only harmful to the black race. Bad science aside, the evil whites in this picture are pretty ballsy and potentially stupid in trying to hatch a plan like this. They probably failed biology and chemistry.

Anyway, this picture has a lot of great action. It also has some pretty impressive scenes of vehicular destruction. It feels as if the budget on this thing is bigger than it actually is.

On the flip side, the film isn’t as exciting as I had hoped. It has real gravitas and it has three men who could scare off a tiger with just a glance in its general direction but it is just lacking something. It is almost too serious and not as stylistic and playful as a lot of the other blaxploitation films. I’m not saying that it needs to be a cookie cutter effort but it could’ve used a bit more humor, at least with the camaraderie between the heroes.

It is still a good movie and it is nice to see a film in the genre take itself a bit more seriously but it is hard to see it as such when the evil plot within the film is so ridiculous. For comparison sake, imagine sending in Daniel Craig’s James Bond to stop an evil scheme from Dr. Evil of the Austin Powers films, that’s kind of what this feels like.

At the very least, Three The Hard Way is a journey alongside three of the biggest black action stars of the 1970s. It is still fun, bad ass and an entertaining picture.

Film Review: The Godfather (1972)

Release Date: March 15th, 1972 (Loew’s State Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
Based on: The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Music by: Nino Rota
Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Abe Vigoda, Alex Rocco, Joe Spinell, Sofia Coppola, Richard Bright

Alfran Productions, Paramount Pictures, 177 Minutes

godfatherReview:

I had a great experience, as I finally got to see The Godfather on the big screen. Like my recent experience of seeing Aliens in the theater, movies just take on a different life when seen in their intended format, much larger and in a dark movie house with other filmgoers there for the love of the picture.

I’ve mentioned before that it is hard to review a masterpiece and this is really no different. In fact, The Godfather goes beyond that. It is a film truly devoid of any real flaws.

I don’t need to talk about the great story and the great acting or how Francis Ford Coppola was at the top of his game – everyone already knows that. The music is perfect, the cinematography is absolutely pristine and tonally, everything is pure magic. I mean, this is a film that has a 9.2 on IMDb. Only one other picture in the entirety of film history is rated higher and that is The Shawshank Redemption.

The Godfather‘s real appeal is that it truly feels timeless. It takes place in the 1940s but was made in the 1970s, yet none of that matters. The world within the film, even now, feels true to itself and incredibly authentic. The Godfather has a certain realism to it missing from most other films, especially the mafia crime genre. It doesn’t feel like Hollywood at all, it feels like you are really a fly on the wall in this family’s home. Even Goodfellas, as great as it is, doesn’t come close to the authenticity of The Godfather.

The film is long, at almost three hours. That is usually a bone of contention with me, but everything in the film feels necessary. Where I feel that certain filmmakers make really long epics in an effort to somehow legitimize their films as something epic and great, The Godfather is one of the few that deserves as much time as it needs. Here, the time is truly needed. At the other end of the spectrum, 2005’s King Kong didn’t need three hours, let alone the extra twenty minutes that brought it to a whopping 200 minutes.

The running time, makes The Godfather feel more like a lengthy miniseries, especially taking into account its sequel, which was even longer. However, it deserves to be seen in the theater. In fact, that is where it should be seen. Not on a small screen where it has existed for the entire duration of my lifetime. I really hope the sequel gets re-released theatrically in the very near future. Hell, I’d even see The Godfather: Part III just to complete the saga on the big screen.

If you have the opportunity to see this in the theater, you need to. And if you’ve never seen the film, you really owe it to yourself to experience it.