By the time this movie ‘One Down, Two to Go’ came out in 1982, the Blaxsploitation era was pretty much over. While Blaxspoloitation and Grindhouse carried the studios for most of the 70’s, ‘Jaws’ and especially ‘Star Wars’ changed everything. Multiplexes started popping up, budgets got ginormous, and movies catering to ‘niche’ audiences were tossed away. Apparently Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson didn’t get the memo and he delivered us a semi-blacksploitation movie, when nobody was making them or going to see them anymore, starring the legends of the genre. A movie with featuring Slaughter, Black Belt Jones, Shaft and Black Caesar. A movie that should’ve been awesome and revered by those of us who live and die by this stuff. It wasn’t. But Fred Williamson is our guy so we can’t be too terribly hard on him.
Our film opens at some kind of MMA event way before Mixed Martial Arts became hip. The thing about this is that the combatants in the ring are seriously trying mess each other up. For real. Apparently Hammer sanctioned an authentic competition with money on the line, and we can tell. Anyway, Chuck (Jim Kelly) is the coach of one team and he’s concerned about his boys getting KTFO’d in this tournament, even though his boys are better. He and his right hand man Ralph (Richard Roundtree) go to check it out, and sure enough Whitey is running a scam. Whitey. Damn Whitey. Mr. Rossi (Peter Dane) is loading up his fighters gloves with rocks. That’s like illegal and stuff. But he’s kind of gotta do this because he’s assured the evil Mr. Mario (Tom Signorelli) that the 400K he offered up as prize money is safe, and his loaded bets will be coming through. Unfortunately for Chuck once he discovered this info, a group of whitey’s started shooting at him.
With Chuck all shot up, it’s Ralph’s show to put Whitey in his place, and while Ralph is plenty badass, he can’t kick a dozen Whitey’s asses all by himself. Now Ralph is down. We think he’s dead but we don’t know. Then Whitey gang rapes Chuck’s girl Teri (Paula Sills) in what has to be the lamest gang rape scene ever filmed. Now I don’t know if there could ever be an awesome gang rape scene, but this was awful.
With Ralph and Chuck out the way, know the show belongs to Cal (Williamson) and J (Jim Brown) who drive into town. If you have any doubt that they just drove into to town, Director Williamson showed some variation of the limousines they were slow riding in for what seemed like an eternity. I get it Hammer, they’re driving into town. I get it.
So Cal and J get into town, J in his suit which is way too tight and Cal in his one piece whatever the hell that was which was also way to tight, but who am I to tell these legends how to dress? I also guess the rent on those Limo’s was too high because for the rest of the movie Cal and J would foot it everywhere or they would drive a crappy Mercury Zephyr or something. And they stayed at the Holiday Inn. This is freaking New York City and these guys are major players and they stay at a Holiday Inn? Color me disappointed.
Regardless, Cal and J know Chuck is missing and the only way to find out where Chuck is to beat up Whitey over and over and over again. Then shoot Whitey over and over and over again. And have sex with the random white woman, though actress Laura Loftus apparently refused to sign the nudity waiver since The Hammer only shot her from the chin up. I guess finding women to get naked in your movie was hard to do in 1982.
Yes, ‘One Down, Two to Go’ is a little disappointing. But shouldn’t it be ‘One Down, Three to Go’? Roundtree gets very little love in this movie. Sure, the script is rudimentary at best and at worst it looks as if that our actors aren’t actually working off of a script, but just making it up as they go along. And we can buy into the argument that Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson wasn’t at the top of his directing game when directing this gem… or someone in the audience might’ve seen his movie ‘Vegas Vampires’ and realized that this is as good it gets for Hammer The Auteur. We wouldn’t say that, but some rude person out there might. The movie has problems in logic and structure and scripting and acting, and don’t think that we didn’t notice that Hammer put Jim Kelly down early in this movie to limit his need to recite lines, in what was essentially Mr. Kelly’s last movie. He’s not dead or anything, he either shut it down or somebody shut it down for him.
But despite the laundry list of problems standing in the way of this movie being solid entertainment, it does have Kelly, Roundtree, Brown and Williamson in it, and that’s worth something in my book. Well, they were kind of in this movie together. Kind of. Not really. All four of these Superstars never appear on the screen together until the very end, and then it’s with all of them laid up in a hospital bed with a talking dog. It’s complicated. What’s up with that? The fact that they weren’t in the movie together laying waste to Whitey, not the talking dog. The talking dog we can deal with, that other thing we can’t rightfully excuse.
True enough in 1982 killing Whitey was no longer cool, but Fred Williamson didn’t get the memo and we love him for it. If he had known that this would be the last time that these four heroes would be together at the same time, I think he would’ve done a little better with it. But who knew?