• Trouble Man

    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: October 18, 2016
    Director: Ivan Dixon
    Cast: Robert Hooks, Paul Winfield, Paula Kelly, Julius Harris, William Smithers
    Year: 1972
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    The Movie:

    If you were to poll the average person and ask them the name of the Black private dick that was a sex machine to all the chicks, they would probably respond with, "Shaft!"...and they'd be at least partially damn right. But in 1972, another bad mother who wouldn't cop out when danger was all about hit the scene; Mr. T (Robert Hooks) in Ivan Dixon's Trouble Man, with a screenplay penned by John D.F. Black, the same cat who brought you Richard Roundtree's complicated man.

    Mr. T. is the man in his neighborhood...a sharp-dressed man with eyes on every corner and a lady on every block, the man who can get your multiple-offender nephew bonded out of jail with a word, or, with a well-placed backhand, force a shifty slumlord to take better care of his tenants. When he's not cruising the streets in his Lincoln Continental or stepping out in the finest threads available, Mr. T. holds court down at Jimmy's a neighborhood pool hall, where he also happens to be reigning champion in all things billiards. After schooling "Texas Blood", an insecure-born in the junkyard mother hustler on the proper way to run a table, T gets a request to sit down with Chalky Price (Paul Winfield), a neighborhood entrepreneur with a problem.

    It turns out that Chalky has formed an interracial alliance with the Caucasian Pete, in an effort to control the craps games in town, an alliance that is doing fairly well in spreading the wealth from the White section of town to the Black, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, somebody else has gotten wind of this profitable venture, and has taken to sticking up the games and making off with the loot. Knowing that clout that T carries in the neighborhood, Chalky and Pete hire him on for the princely sum of ten thousand 1972 dollars to show up at the games and pretend that he's there to roll the dice like the rest of the players. If the game is held up, T will use his power and connections to track the culprits down, and order will be restored.

    Mr. T may be lucky in a lot of areas, but craps isn't one of them; his first appearance at a game brings the stick-up crew, who get away clean except for one of their crew that Chalky manages to gun down in the doorway. Taking off the thief's mask reveals Abby Walsh, a well-connected man with the crew belonging to Big (Julius Harris), a no-nonsense mofo who rivals T for badassery. Big doesn't buy the story that Abby would run a scheme on his own, and decides that the shooting is an effort to move in on Big's turf...by Chalky and Mr. T. As a matter of fact, Big has heard that T is the one that shot Abby, and dumped him in a vacant lot, and if that isn't enough to put the Trouble Man in some serious trouble, somebody has dropped a dime to the cops spilling the same story. Hounded by the police who want to see T go down on a murder rap is bad enough, but if he can't track down the man who actually dumped Abby's body, Big's crew may put him in the morgue before the cops get the chance to slap the cuffs on him.

    Following the infamous Shaft by one year, Trouble Man has no apologies to make to Mr. Roundtree or any of the other serious contenders in the Blaxploitation genre. This is a film that gets moving right out of the gate and gathers momentum, laying smackdowns along the way and not stopping to take names. Black's screenplay is simple but solid, wisely giving the excellent cast a lot of room to breathe life into their characters. Hooks is the obvious draw, here, playing Mr. T like a champ, moving with purpose and throwing out barbed one-liner insults as necessary, but Winfield and Harris are also stellar.

    Gritty downtown street violence, a host of colourful characters, and a scorching selection of music from Marvin Gaye, fast action Direction from Ivan Dixon; all signs here point to a real winner. And that's Mr. Trouble, 99 minutes of pure grit entertainment that stands the test of time, shaming the critics who slammed it at the time by remaining as hard as ever.


    Kino Lorber brings Mr. Trouble to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer that looks great. Though there are some very (very!) minor issues here and there...some shimmering, some softness, a little debris...but overall, this is a solid transfer with good black levels and the level of grain that most of us like to see in our gritty 70's action flicks. Colours are well-represented with a dynamic palette...dig those clothes, baby...and the level of detail is high pretty much throughout.

    Audio is carried on an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that is robust for a stereo track, with clear and consistent dialogue balanced nicely with the incredible score and other sound effects. A couple of instances of ADR stand out, but we'll chalk that up to source material. Hiss is non-existent, as are pops and other audio flaws.

    There are no subtitles available.

    Speaking of audio, the first supplement is a feature-length commentary from film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Howard S. Berger, that sounds like it may have had a tin can involved somewhere in the recording process. Berger sounds like he's across the room from Thompson, and personally, I found it annoying and distracting to listen to the commentary. The two cover the reception to films like Trouble Man in a pre-Tarantino world, and their exposure to them as younger kids, and get into a pretty lengthy analysis of the characters. They also discuss the actors and crew, and what they did before and after the film, as well as the soundtrack.

    Five Trailers are also included, for Trouble Man, Truck Turner, Across 110th Street, Cotton Comes To Harlem, and Report To The Commissioner.

    The Final Word:

    If you're a fan of action, 70's flicks, Blaxploitation, and just good films in general, Trouble Man belongs in your collection. Aside from flawed audio on the commentary, the Blu-ray offers a worthy upgrade to existing releases.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!