Trouble Man (1972)
Take a little bit of Shaft, a dash of Travolta’s Chili Palmer and a whole lot of Lee Marvin’s Walker from Point Blank and you wind up with character much like Robert Hooks gives us named Mr. T.
He’s a cool character with a large wardrobe and women at his beck and call. Pool shark who’s deadly with a cue. A legal P.I. who’s licensed to carry a firearm when needed. The one thing he does demand is respect and when someone needs something righted on his turf, they come to him.
While holding court in his local pool hall, he is approached by Paul Winfield and Ralph Waite. The duo run an illegal dice game that has been hit on more than one occasion and they want Hooks to put a stop to it. For a steep price he’s willing to take part in the game as an observer and wait for another robbery to get a look at the gang. “You dig?”
Things may not be quite as they seem with Winfield and Waite. The pair might be attempting to utilize Hooks in a turf war with Julius Harris’ Mr. Big. If they can maneuver Hooks into the right location, they might be able to overtake Harris’ territory and lay the blame all at Hooks’ doorstep.
Local police inspector Bill Smithers would like nothing better than to get something illegal on Hooks who he is convinced dabbles in things to the left of the law. He just can’t seem to prove it. He may get his chance when a pair of killings are firmly planted in Hooks’ direction.
Still on the outside, Hooks pieces together just who has been setting him up and let’s Waite know by phone, “now I’m coming to get your honky ass.”
First he’ll have to get to Winfield and the army that surrounds him. Like Lee Marvin’s Walker, Hooks wants the money owed him first and no more. Then it’s time to pick up the gun and take his vengeance like any 70’s action/vigilante styled hero is expected to do.
The final gun battle with Waite’s thugs is well staged and offers action fans a slam bang finale.
This turned out to be a solid effort from the Blaxploitation era. It’s well directed by Hogan’s Heroes actor Ivan Dixon. The camera is in perpetual motion and keeps us action fans moving with the pace of the plot. Right from the opening credits sequence, one can tell that an effort has been put forth to capture some great aerial footage and angles to make Hooks’ Mr. T a “cool cat.”
The soundtrack opens with a solid number from Marvin Gaye who is credited with the music for this 20th Century Fox release.
Both Paul Winfield and Ralph Waite make suitable bad guys at this period of their careers. Waite seemed to excel at these slimy characters in his early appearances before becoming one of those go to fatherly types on television’s long running show The Waltons. Movies like Chato’s Land, The Stone Killer and Lawman come to mind.
Winfield and Waite would reunite in a well done TV movie titled Angle City in 1980 that is worth seeking out where they play depression era migrant workers who find themselves and their families roped into slavery.
Robert Hooks as Mr. T carries himself with style and strength. When confronted with a fine looking woman he is sure to let her know, “My names T baby.”
Trust me, she already knows.