The Plot: After Duke’s brother dies he comes back to Bucktown to take on his inheritance, namely the Club Alabama, with the intentions to sell it off. Unfortunately, Duke has a sixty day waiting limit before he can actually sell the club. After some persuasion from his brother’s old friends, Duke decides to open the Club Alabama and reap the profits until he can sell it. He runs into trouble with the local redneck police though, who try to hustle Duke for money, but Duke isn’t having it so he lays a beating on one of them. After the cops start threatening Duke, he has no choice but to call in some of his friends from the city for support. The team quickly dispatch of the honkies, but now a new problem arises. It seems as if Duke’s friends aren’t wanting to leave, and they may just be worse than the cops.
Well, okay maybe it’s not a life style and is only a fun blaxploitation movie, but to see a film like this with such a low score provokes a hatred so dark and fierce inside my soul that the only way to combat it is to make insane accusations and outrageous claims. Bucktown may not be the greatest film in the Blaxploitation criteria, but to me it’s pretty high up there amongst my favorite. It seems like it is one part gritty action picture, but on the other hand it has a touch of tongue in cheek comedy. As far as the gritty action is concerned, an excellent example comes during the section of the film where Duke (Fred “The Hammer” Williamson) calls in his buddies to come take care of the local police. There is a scene where Hambone (Carl Weathers, putting in an unexpected cameo) attacks one of them with a bat. This wouldn’t really be a big deal normally, because we’ve been trained to hate the cops throughout the film, but it’s all in the way it is shown. Weathers attacks the man, and being the wimpiest of all the cops he starts begging for his life, but Weathers doesn’t even give him a chance and hits him directly in the face instantly killing him. We don’t actually see any blood, it is mostly effective because of the sound effects and the begging. The utter cruelty of the sequence is both disturbing and is an interesting way of establishing the following story arch where Hambone and the gang try to take over. As far as the comedy goes, Duke has a jive talking know-it-all kid that acts as his partner. Following him around and ripping off one-liners. Not to even mention the ending, which borders on the absolute ridiculous yet still remains fun.
This was actually the first Fred “The Hammer” Williamson film I had ever seen. Although Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem haven’t crossed my desk yet, seeing the man’s talent on display here makes me want to hunt through his filmography even more. Williamson simply defines cool in this film. He embodies cool. He oozes cool! He breathes cool! He sneezes cool and he rubs vicks vapor rub on his chest with COOL! His cigar-in-mouth tough guy persona even challenges Eastwood in my opinion, his charisma is just that vibrant. I only wish I could say the same for Pam Grier. Don’t get me wrong, Pam isn’t necessarily bad here, but she didn’t exactly blow my socks off like she did in Foxy Brown. Perhaps there was some kind of conflict on set or something, but Pam is so much better than what she provides in this film. Maybe she is only built for starring roles, where she can shine her brightest. She’s a talented actress and one whole heck of a lot of woman, but I couldn’t help but feel she was either holding back or was just wasted by the role.
I don’t think I can blame the director, because I’ve also seen another Blaxploitation film by Mr. Marks called J.D.’s Revenge, and for a film that followed such a trivial and silly plot it was remarkably well made and acted. Far better than a film like it should have been, so I figure Marks has some talent. Anyway, other than Grier’s rather low key performance, Bucktown is superb. Sure, we’re not talking about The Pianist or anything, but this film is pure dynamite. From the beginning with Williamson stepping off the train looking cooler than a Eskimo, down to the ridiculously over the top finale, Bucktown stands as an all time classic. It’s a shame that films like this aren’t made anymore. It seems the art of the low budget action film has fallen prey to Van Damme straight to video garbage, just the thought haunts me.