Monday, September 13, 2010

Berny Casey Kicking your Ass

 Day eleven of the September exploitation challenge lands me in the heart of L.A. trying to find a brother's killer!

HIT MAN (1972)
D. George Armitage

Bernie Casey stars in this Blaxploitation noir about a man looking for his brother’s killers in the seedy underworld of vice and corruption in L.A. At times this feels like a black urban remake of Mike Hodges excellent GET CARTER, but often it just sort of spins around in circles until it gets to the brutal climax when it finally comes to life. 

Casey plays Tyrone Tackett a former police officer who moved away to work in the porno industry. He has come back to town on the eve of his brother’s funeral. Seems his brother drove off a bridge drunk and people are calling it a suicide, but Tyrone knows better. He can just feel it was a murder. So he is asking questions, looking for clues and will beat it out of people if he has to. He starts with his brothers former squeeze a hooker named Laurell. Turns out she and his brother were more than just a Thing, and he wanted her out of the game. But that wasn’t enough to drive him off a bridge. Tyrone’s niece and his brother’s 17 year old daughter Rochell is pretty angry about the whole thing but she isn’t saying why. He soon uncovers that a local gangster named Zito may be involved and that he is keeping as a pet a black gal named Gozelda (an early role for Pam Grier, who sheds her clothes a LOT). Gozelda is related to the other local porno kingpin Theatis Oliver who may be ending up in a war with Zito. But none of this seems to have any reason as to why Tyrone’s brother would be killed or kill himself. Or why some really bad thugs keep showing up to try and muscle Tyrone out of L.A. and back to Oakland. 

Tyrone ends up finding out what the dope is purely by accident while checking out a porno flick with Gozelda who wants him to see her in action so he will go back to his boss in Oakland and try to get her work. What he sees in the movie gives him answers to his questions and sets about the last act of the movie that will leave a whole lot of motherfuckers dead in their tracks. 

As you can tell the movie is nothing if not a bit complex. At times it gets to twisting so much the movie loses track of what is going on and just drifts aside into senses moments like Tyrone and his oldest buddy taking a drive and getting piss drunk on Wild Turkey and ending up a a car wash. Or Tyrone’s endless dalliances with various ladies (though his hotel manager is pretty hot).  It is almost like the director was getting bored with the material and just wandered off to something else at times. Also weird is the amount of ass shots Bernie Casey gets in the movie. I guess turn about is fair play cause there is no shortage of naked females, but the brother is putting his butt cheeks into the camera just about any chance he gets. 

All in all the movie is kind of a disappointment and pretty much a low ranking entry in the cycle. Casey is great as he always is. And the direction is good, as George Armitage would go on to direct some amazing films in his later years such as MIAMI BLUES and GROSSE POINT BLANK and write the weirdest blaxploitation movie of them all DARKTOWN STRUTHERS. But the script just mulls about too much, before delivering the goods in the last reel. Though once it gets there, it DOES deliver.

Review © Andy Copp

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