Starring Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Thalmus Rasulala, Tony King, Bernie Hamilton, Art Lund, Tierre Turner, Carl Weathers
Directed By Arthur Marks
On paper Bucktown seems like a blaxploitation fan’s dream come true. Fred Williamson, Pam Grier and seasoned genre filmmaker Arthur Marks on all accounts should make for a potent combination. Maybe I expected too much from that stockpile of talent, because unfortunately the film ends up being merely adequate in large part due to the silly ass plot that would be feasible in maybe the Holy Crusades or Feudal Japan, but not so much in 1970s Missouri.
The action begins when Duke (Fred Williamson) steps off a train in Bucktown, Missouri to claim his recently deceased brother’s estate, which includes his flashy red-light district nightclub. Told that he must stay in town 60 days before the estate can be properly turned over, Duke decides to wait and tend to the business before selling it. All is not well in Bucktown however, as Duke soon finds out. The entire municipality is being strong-armed by a gang of corrupt police officers who extort cash from local businesses, solicit prostitutes, and participate in illegal gambling rings. Not to mention that they are racist as fuck. Seriously, even by typical genre standards these guys hurl out the most hateful, redneck slurs this side of the battle of Gettysburg.
When these guys try to pull that jive with Duke he stands up to them, refusing to hand over protection money. All seems well until the cops decide to pay Duke a visit at home as he is sexin’ up his lady (Pam Grier) and proceed to fill the house with lead. Fed up, Duke decides to call in the big guns back home, world class criminal Roy (Thalmus Rasulala) and his army of suave, flannel jacket wearing badasses are sent down to take care of business. They step off the train and proceed to rid honkeytown of the rampant corruption by systematically gunning down the white police force in spectacular fashion. Far from personal revenge, this shit is on a town wide scale as cops are beaten with baseball bats, cars are blown up, and fleeing officers are shot in the ass while Fred Williamson laughs and sparks up another cigar.
The chief is locked up in an underground jail cell and the mayor congratulates the vigilantes by suggesting a parade, which is turned down in favor of awarding them all city employment as police officers! Yeah. Beginning to see where this is headed?
Now I’m willing to accept many things in the movies from old guys who can chop down trees with kung fu to ancient demons with live caterpillar phalluses. But the mayor handing an entire town over to a gang of prolific, cop-killing criminals, no questions asked was a little much, even by my standards. I can understand this kind of thing being the way business was handled say, 400 years ago when kingdoms needed overthrowing and kings needed toppling, but in modern day Missouri these guys would have the national guard firing mortar shells and mowing down walls with Abrams tanks before they could pin on their badges.
Needless to say, Roy and his thugs pick up right where the cops left off, once again milking the town for profit and littering it with every lowbrow scheme you could cook up. Duke takes issue of course and chides Roy because it’s brothers against brothers this time. Duke is willing to let it slide for a while, simply refusing any profits, but when Roy’s gang breaks in and tries to take some of Pam’s cherry the Hammer leaps into action, jumpkicking the assailant and beating the unholy shit out of him before hijacking a military armored car and crashing it into Roy’s fortified compound.
So you see, this film takes a nosedive after about 1/3rd of the way in. It starts off strong enough and shows a lot of promise before it winds up looking like a collection of Spy vs. Spy comic strips. Don’t get me wrong, The Hammer gets the job done, strutting around with those big collar shirts of his that are buttoned only halfway up, sparking up pencil-thin cigars and shooting that “did you say something?” look off every five minutes or so. His action scenes are great as usual with a lot of heavy hits, broken pool cues and shattered bottles. It’s Pam who ultimately suffers here as she turns in another tender-hearted “Can’t you see what you’re doing?” performance. There’s nothing wrong with it, she just doesn’t have a lot to do. This should have been the Heroes Two of blaxploitation cinema, with Pam and Fred both dishing out some badass, raw, shotgun-toting action. Instead Pam has to play second fiddle and becomes barely necessary here… Boo! Me no likey!
Genre regulars will be happy to find the usual American International crew and bit-players here in full force. Rasulala is as good here as he was in Blacula, Art Lund is just as shallowly evil as he was in Black Caesar, and Carl Weathers and young Tierre Turner from Friday Foster show up to round out the cast.
Don’t be fooled when you look this shit up on IMDB and see the cast and crew. Aside from a few choice moments, Bucktown is hardly worth your time. In the end, this is 94 minutes you could spend watching Coffy instead.