My bitter rival Chris Sims often disagree on Big Issues such as which one of us is more awesome, but if there's one thing we can agree on, it's that Gymkata is a fucking awesome movie.
Wait, actually there are TWO things we agree on: Jim Kelly's 1974 blaxploitation martial arts film Black Belt Jones is a near perfect film.
That's why we're calling a truce to celebrate the full-on radness that is BBJ. After you're done here, click on over to Chris's Invincible Super-Blog for Chris's review of this beautiful film that can build bridges between even the most intractable foes. Yes, such is the power of Black Belt Jones.
Like many a young lad, I thought Jim Kelly and John Saxon kicked serious ass in Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. (Don't even get me started on John Saxon - that guy is 100% Man.) Sadly, Kelly gets his ass killed by the bad guy Han in a scene designed to illustrate how evil and formidable the aging villain is. Weak.
Young Dave always thought Jim Kelly kind of got screwed in that movie, so I was psyched when I discovered Black Belt Jones, a starring vehicle for Kelly that combined the best of both worlds: martial arts and blaxploitation. You can't go wrong with a combination like that. It's like combining a teen coming-of-age story with a cannibal movie - two great genres that were meant for each other. It was even directed by Robert Clouse, the same guy who directed Enter the Dragon! It HAD to be awesome.
Oh, and it is. Black Belt Jones pits our man BB against The Mob when they try to shut down Papa Byrd's inner city karate school. I know: isn't that the plot of Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo? Pretty much, yes, but instead of putting on a show, BB saves the school by beating the living shit out of Whitey. Eat it, Whitey!
The movie coasts on Jim Kelly's easy charisma, huge 'fro, and his trademark ass-kicking style which features lots of back hand strikes punctuated by BB's deep "HOYYYYYY!!!!" battle cry.
Don't take my word for it, check out the brilliant opening credit sequence:
That's 100% American ass-kicking right there. If you mess with BB, he will beat the hell out of your crew and SHOOT YOU IN THE ASS.
Is it any wonder why Dave and Chris have called a temporary truce to the feud-that-will-only-end-when-one-of-us-is-dead-dead-dead to sing the praises of Black Belt Jones? Here's a transcript of a conversation between Mr. Sims and myself in The Neutral Zone:
Dave: So, Chris. We share some common interests and an intense rivalry, but will you admit in public that I turned you on to the wonder that is Black Belt Jones?
Chris: Are you asking me to admit in public that you turn me on, Dave?
Dave: Let me rephrase that so that it doesn't illicit the expected innuendo: I, Dave told you, Chris, to watch Black Belt Jones. Which makes me The Master.
Chris: Come on, Campbell! Everybody knows that Bruce Leroy is the Master! Besides, the truth is actually far more embarrassing.
Dave: Well, I'd argue that Lee Van Cleef is the One True Master, but that's neither here nor there. What "truth" are you referring to, young one?
Chris: The sad fact of the matter is, I first got a desire to watch Black Belt Jones from MAD TV.
Dave: Mad TV? Jesus, Sims. You are more dead to me than ever before.
Chris: I know, I know. But back when I was a teenager--which was when you were, what, in your early sixties?--they had a sketch where Dolemite and Black Belt Jones teamed up to make a new movie, and it ended with "You're pretty good fighter... for a badass mothertrucker." It was probably one of the three good sketches in the show's run, and since I was already a fan of Shaft from the life-changing experience of seeing it at fifteen, I immediately needed to see it. But yes, to be fair: You are the one who convinced me to finally get a copy.
Dave: So victory IS mine, in a manner of speaking. What was your favorite part of Black Belt Jones? I know it's hard to pick just one scene.
Chris: Could it be anything but "BATMAN, MOTHERFUCKER!"
Dave: Yeah, that's fucking awesome.
Chris: Although the army of swimsuit models on trampolines was pretty righteous, too.
Dave: You are correct. You may live another day, Sims.