Thursday, September 30, 2010

Slaughter's Big Rip-Off

It's time again to play my favorite 1970s movie game, "Is it Blaxploitation?"  I had never heard of Slaughter's Big Rip-Off before I watched it, so it took me a while to answer that question.  The title sequence featured several freeze frames of inconsequential importance; that's not great filmmaking, but not necessarily Blaxploitation.  The soundtrack features funky beats and horns, courtesy of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown; that's awesome and the funk element does lend itself to "urban" 70s, looking good.  Pimps and hos are featured prominently, supplying plot points and gratuitous nudity; now we're getting into Blaxploitation country!  The main character is a bad-ass black man who takes no guff from any man and the villains are primarily rich white men; DING DING DING!!!  We have a winnah!  Blaxploitation it is!

The movie begins with Slaughter (football legend Jim Brown) at a picnic, having a good time with some friends and (presumably) family.  The good times end when a propeller plane fires a machine gun at the picnic, killing several innocent people.  The plane leaves unscathed, but Slaughter knows that they were gunning for him.  How does he know?  Maybe it's a leftover plot thread from the previous entry in this series, Slaughter.  Or maybe Slaughter just knows stuff because he's Jim Effin' Brown.  Don't worry your pretty little head; it's never explained.  Slaughter obviously has to take the law into his own hands, so he packs his pistol and starts busting heads, looking for an answer.  He gets some grief from a straight-arrow cop (played by Brock Peters), but they eventually come to an understanding; if Slaughter helps the cop get a secret list of policemen taking bribes, then Slaughter can do things his way, unhindered.  And by "unhindered," I of course mean "by shooting people in the face."

Meanwhile, we meet the evil mastermind behind Slaughter's problems.  When I saw his name pop up in the credits, I assumed that there must be another person with his name, but no, Ed McMahon is the villain of this film.  Sadly, he does not laugh or tell anyone they are correct, sir.  He hired a guy to kill Slaughter, and was surprised when the airplane-based hit didn't work.  McMahon had the assassin killed by another killer; he died by inner tube.  There are other minor villains, too.  Since Slaughter is a stand-up dude, he obviously has no respect for pimps and drug dealers.  But the pimp in this movie (Dick Anthony Williams) was pretty awesome; he gave his hos a lecture that consists of him asking over and over again "Do you bitches unnerstaaan?"  And his fashion sense cannot be understated. 

Obviously, this is a dumb movie with little to no plot, beyond the understanding that Slaughter kicks major ass.  Gordon Douglas' directing isn't terrible, but Jim Brown is no Oscar winner; still, he's a more viable double threat than his fellow actor/athletes Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal.  Brown's emotional range is about as wide as his shoulders --- not bad for shoulders, but still lacking for drama.  Still, this isn't a movie you watch to appreciate the craftsmanship.  This is a low-level action movie that keeps the action coming.  It's funny to hear Ed McMahon talking tough, and there are a lot of lines that probably sounded awesome at the time, but are now firmly set in the realm of awesomely bad.  As far as Blaxploitation goes, this is actually a pretty solid movie.  It's not boring, certainly, and Brown is certainly credible as the guy you don't want to mess with.  Maybe that's why the plot is practically nonexistent; the writer didn't want to mess with Brown, so they filmed without a story.  Again, that's not a huge problem for a movie like this.  If the lines were a touch funnier or Slaughter did one or two more ridiculous things, I would give the film major props.  It is entirely possible that this is a film that can grow on you with multiple viewings (there were a lot of amusing lines), but for now I'll say it's only decent.

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