Cigar clenched between the teeth, icy cool Fred “The Hammer” Williamson takes the title role in this above average actioner from the days when Blaxploitation flicks were the rage. It’s probably the closest he ever came to playing a Bond like character. He’s got an impressive military record a mile long, an expert in karate, a natural with the ladies, stealthy as a cat burglar and rattlesnake mean when crossed. All this adds up to a fun tale with Fred on location in Hong Kong for the majority of the film with a stop in Las Vegas along the way. At times it seems a distant cousin to not only the Bond films but Enter the Dragon as well which was released earlier in the same year.
Fred is a professional courier with the skills to match. He’s brought in to a Macao banking organization to deliver one million in cash to the U.S. From the get go it’s fairly obvious that the money isn’t intended to reach it’s destination and Fred throws a curve ball into the proceedings by having the money checked and recorded by customs officials. Still that won’t stop three toughs from an attempted assault on Fred in an airport washroom. No problem as Fred beats the hell out of them. One of which you may recognize but be unable to place. It’s Nick Dimitri. Long time bit player who may be best known for his participation in the final fight scene in the Charles Bronson classic, Hard Times. Time for a one liner as Fred walks out of the john, “Don’t forget to wash your hands.”
Briefly off to Vegas, Fred stashes the money in what may be a counterfeiting ring and picks up with girlfriend and lounge singer, the sexy Teresa Graves. When hitmen won’t give up and Graves winds up as collateral damage, Williamson takes the gloves off and wants his own brand of justice. One might say “Hammer Style.” Asian crime Lords, an island monastery with plenty of karate kicking students and an illegal rocket fuel operation are in Fred’s line of fire before the closing credits roll.
Thoroughly enjoyable, this product of Universal Studios begs for a sequel looking back but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Williamson is for me the only real recognizable name here to the masses but if one looks close enough at some of the credited cast, you might see a face or two along with the previously mentioned Dimitri and Graves that stirs a memory. Miko Mayama turns up as a well kept woman by the Asian crime Lord. She looked familiar and then I realized, she was in Impasse opposite Burt Reynolds and supposedly moved to Hollywood and took up with Reynolds for a couple of years following that film. John Orchard had a face I recalled and see he had plenty of TV work and a stint on the early years of M*A*S*H* which probably explains my realizing I’ve seen that face but just can’t place it exactly.
There’s also an interesting performance here from Byron Webster as someone working for Her Majesty’s Secret Service I suppose. Webster is doing a very comical interpretation of Robert Morley for my money and does it well as a suit who is behind the scenes and pulling some strings though we’re never quite sure if they are in Fred’s favor till the close. He has a very funny scene with Fred in a massage parlor where the women refer to Fred as Mr. Chocolate. Yes it’s Blaxploitation remember so don’t be shocked if the “N” word is tossed about either.
Glad I picked up a copy of this one. Keeps reminding me there was so much more to the era than just Shaft. That’s not a knock on Roundtree’s classic. Love the film but early on it seemed to be the only film that was readily available for viewing so I’m still coming across others over the years that were backed by a major studio and offered plenty of escapism and action. As a matter of fact, I’d much rather rewatch this then plenty of the CGI orchestrated action flicks inflicted upon us nowadays.
Unlike this Fred Williamson flick, I do feel the need to wash my hands after viewing much of today’s product.
I don’t know this one but I do very much fancy it. The Hammer is just so gawd damn cool. Sounds like a riff on the Our Man Flint title. I’m very intrigued to hear Charles Bernstein’s soundtrack. Gonna keep em peeled for this film. It does look a whole lot of fun.