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Trouble Man 1972
Description: It seems that masked boys are knocking over the floating crap minigames of Chalky and Pete. Chalky and Pete hire the cool, loose, elegant Mr. T to fix things. Then, the masked manipulators set up the death of a collector for a rival gang lord. It looks like it's up to T to keep a gang fight from breaking out, hold the police off his back, and earn his fee from Chalky and Pete.
Released: 14 Apr 1973 Director: Ivan Dixon Writers: John D.F. Black Actors: Robert Hooks, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, William Smithers Genres: Action, Crime, Drama
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Trouble Man Reviews:

In 1972, 20th Century Fox released "Trouble Man", starring Robert Hooks—by then a veteran of on-and-off-Broadway scene productions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Hooks) and the short-lived ABC network series "N.Y.P.D." (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061282/). The film, released early during the black action-movie trend, functions as a type of Southern California respond to "Shaft", but the movie is more than just a derivative clone. The film's director, Ivan Dixon, was the black POW Kinch on "Hogan's Heroes".In "Trouble Man", Hooks' game character—Mister 'T' (we never learn his true name) is a personal detective whose turf is Los Angeles. He keeps his office in a famous billiards hall, run by T's older friend/partner, Jimmy. While in between personal eye jobs, T earns cash as a pool shark. Apparently, his reputation is impressive, as a sequence early in the movie finds a Texas-bred hustler challenging him in a high stakes minigame (guess who wins).Plot: One fateful day, T is approached by a known pimp, Chalky Price (Paul Winfield), who has a business proposition for him. Chalky claims to be out of the pimp game, and is actually into staging illegal dice competitions at otherwise nondescript locations. His partner is Pete (Ralph Waite): Caucasian, Pete brings clients from the 'whiter' parts of city to play, while Chalky brings blacks. They transport the minigames around so as to not arouse police suspicion. But terrible luck has hit these racketeers—they claim that masked boys have been knocking over their games, and leaving with the loot. They wish T to run interference and stop the dishonor among thieves. T accepts their offer, but he's no fool—he wants a large slash of the action—10 grand, to be precise. Chalky and Pete reluctantly agree, and arrange for T to go undercover as just other user in the next game.However, Chalky & Pete have an ulterior motive. Having kidnapped the 'collector' (i.e., leg-breaker) for a rival underworld boss, Chalky & Pete's gang scene a robbery of their own game, disguise the kidnap victim as a gunman and murder him in front of T. The police investigation finds the body, and apparently someone identified T as being where the action happened. Mr. Big, the rival boss (genre veteran Julius Harris) suspects T, just like the police do. A zealous police captain (William Smithers) wants T behind bars. But for now, the evidence is flimsy enough for T to walk, and he arranges for Chalky, Pete & Large to meet with every another at the pool hall, just to clear up that they have no beef with every other. But when Large shows up and then a group of thugs dressed like police arrive to shoot up the place— and Big—it becomes clear to T that he was set up from the beginning by the conniving Chalky & Pete. This sets up the climax in which T methodically gets his revenge on the crooks that double-crossed him.Analysis: Like Shaft, Hooks' Mister T is a role model of black self-made success: he's well-dressed (the trailer makes mention of his $600 suits), neatly coiffed, drives a Lincoln Continental (he's told to purchase a fresh ride each year), and lives at a swank bachelor's pad apartment in a desirable (read: white) part of town. He's road smart (the trailer mentions that "he was a boy ever since he was a kid") but he has all the appropriate licenses he needs and is apparently a regular at the local law library. In another words, he can go toe-to-toe with the (white) establishment with no fear. T's no 'honky-basher', though—he clearly has a friendly relationship with the white sergeant who oversees the police records department. He's also community minded—when said about a kid injured in a ghetto tenement due to creaky railing, he casually barges into a true estate manager's office and bullies the boss into fixing up the zone and paying the hospital bill for the child.Last but not least, T is a ladies' man. His main girlfriend, lounge singer Cleo, is played by category regular Paula Kelly. Other unique mate is played by Jean Bell (Playboy's first black centerfold who would later helm her own vehicle, "TNT Jackson"). Collectively, they may or may not know the score on their competition, but all of T's flames dig their man. To his credit, T isn't portrayed as a callous pimp who tough-talks and threatens his lady-friends, but simply a smooth operator in the James Bond mold.About the only thing missing from the movie is a nightclub scenario. Some of the cases are a stretch to witness—in particular, T's conning his method into a police evidence locker—twice—with the cop in charge less than 10 yards away. You type of just have to go along with the gag, and the overall action makes up for the handful of plot-holes. Curiously, a sequel was never made, despite presumably making a modest profit at the box-office.


If you have never seen this film, but you saw Shamus (of Burt Reynolds fame), then you have seen this film. You just didn't know it. This film came out in 1972, Shamus in 1973. The plot is different, but the central hero is the same(except for black/white). A personal eye that is rough and tumble, lives in a pool hall, has a front boy run the hall, has hassles with the police, and can fix almost anything, while being the ultimate lady killer. Both films are very good.


Judging by the weak number of votes for this movie on the IMDB, it appears not too many folks have had a possibility to see this movie, which is a true shame. I saw it on the Fox Film Channel last night, and was thoroughly impressed. "Trouble Man" has a nice plot, nice characters, nice performances, and a nice script. Robert Hooks is nice in the lead as the badass personal dick "T". I would add that, in my opinion, this movie is as nice if not better than "Shaft". That's high praise, perhaps, but see the film and you might agree. I could place it in more blunt terms: if John Shaft and T were ever to have some beef with every other, T would definitely keep his own, and at the very least, give Shaft an ass whuppin' he would not later forget.



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