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Bucktown (1975)

DVD Cover (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Genres:
Action, Action Thriller, Blaxploitation
Director:
Arthur Marks Arthur Marks
Starring:
Fred Williamson Fred Williamson
Pam Grier Pam Grier
Thalmus Rasulala Thalmus Rasulala
Tony King Tony King
Bernie Hamilton Bernie Hamilton

6.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: February 13, 2011
Bucktown is an interesting little blaxploitation flick in that it starts out much like every other film in the genre: the white guys are holding the brothers down, the brothers get sick of it, and - led by the guy with the best body and the best one-liners - they rise up against the white devils and get their vengeance. We've seen that same general storyline play out in countless movies, but that's not the end of this film; no, that's only the midway point. Bucktown is interesting because it uses that piece of recycled plot as a precursor to the real message of the film, that being that money and power will corrupt everyone regardless of skin color.

Our story here centers around Duke (Fred Williamson), a jive-talking city boy who can easily back up his words with his fists. He hears about the death of his brother over in Bucktown, and he heads on over to pay his respects and take care of his brother's affairs: namely, a little bar called The Alabama. What he finds is that Bucktown is run by the most crooked white cops that you have ever seen, and these cops have a finger in all of the pies around here: the whorehouse, the card games, and yes, even the bars.

When Duke discovers that the police are trying to kill him because he won't pay his "protection" money, he calls in some of his city friends - led by his best friend Roy (Thalmus Rasulala) and Hambone (Carl Weathers) - to help clean up the town. It actually doesn't take too terribly long before these fellows have killed off every last one of the racist white cops, and things are looking good: the town has been cleaned up, the sweet-talking Aretha (Pam Grier) is falling in love with Duke, and his bar is thriving. Roll credits? Not quite...

You see, Roy thinks that those cops had a good thing going, and that maybe he should give it a shot. So, he plops the Sheriff's badge on his chest, he plants the other badges on his boys, and the gang starts to run Bucktown their way... which turns out to be in the same way that the white cops ran it, only much more ruthless. Duke discovers that he has created a monster and that he will have to stand up to and maybe even kill his best friend - after he takes care of all of his goons, that is.

I enjoyed the hell out of Bucktown. The first half of the film has been done before, true enough, but it was executed nicely here and was as fun to watch as it's ever been. The white cops were vile and evil enough to adequately turn us against them, while Duke was cool enough to easily win us over and wait for his eventual victory over them. Yes, you've seen this before, and yes, you know what's going to happen, but I'll be damned if it wasn't entertaining to watch regardless. Can't say anything negative about this chunk at all.

From there, the film ventures into the black-on-black hate, a radical departure from the fare that we usually witness in these films. The film does a fine job of showing how money and power can turn anyone against anyone, color be damned, and considering the era and the genre, this was a pretty significant plot arc. Of course, it's also a damned fine set of action sequences, so even if you choose to ignore the message that the filmmakers were attempting to deliver, you're still going to be hit with some shoot-outs and an epic fight sequence between two former best friends (including a kick to the crotch that tops almost every other kick ever recorded), so it's a winner of a film either way.

The acting is just as solid as the storyline, with Fred Williamson handling the leading role as smoothly as one could ask for. He can easily handle the buff macho man, the wisecracking jivester, the ladies' man, and the no-bullshit tough guy aspects of the character and is a treat to watch in each mode. There is a reason that he is known as one of the kings of blaxploitation cinema, and one needs look no further than this film for an example of why he was so renowned. Pam Grier is also quite good in her role here, even though I was a bit disappointed that she wasn't given her typical "badass chick" character. Here, she plays a character that whines and cries a lot and wouldn't be able to so much as point a gun, but in typical Grier fashion, she makes the character work. The woman has more range as an actress than she was ever given credit for, and this would be a movie to pick up if you thought that she was only a gun-toting broad with big boobs.

So, yes, I'm giving Bucktown a huge thumbs up. I wouldn't go so far as to call it my favorite blaxploitation flick, but it's certainly a movie that I would recommend to people new to the genre as well as established veterans who may have overlooked this one. It delivers everything that the better movies from the genre offer, it brings new material to the table to set it apart from the pack, and it has some damned fine acting from all involved, so I believe that a 9/10 is in order.
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