Black Belt Jones 1974
Jim Kelly, known to most as the black martial artists from Bruce Lee’s iconic film Enter the Dragon, teams up with that same director, Robert Clouse. one year later for a more afro-centric take on the kung fu film. Kelly plays the titular karate master, who becomes caught up in a deadly battle with the Mafia.
The mob wants land to build a profitable contract, but the last holdout is Pop Byrd, played by musician Scatman Crothers, and when they try to deal and threaten him, the men accidentally kill Pop, invoking the rage of Jones and Byrd’s equally trained daughter Sydney, played by Gloria Hendry, and then the two proceed to ‘clobber the mob.’
Black Belt Jones, as well as being an entertaining martial arts film, showed how easily the Blaxploitation style could adapt itself into any style of studio film. By switching the races of the kung fu masters to black, from the typical Asian, the film shows how the entire Blaxploitation movement was changing up the norms of the industry.
Social connotations aside, Black Belt Jones is as entertaining as any other American kung fu film made during the time, featuring a compelling plot, great action sequences and Jim Kelly, a hero as cool as any Asian kung Fu star.