Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

As we continue to revisit the filmography of the recently passed Jim Kelly, can we all come to the consensus that he possessed the greatest afro in the history of cinema?  I mean… wow.  I try very hard not be envious of people and wishing I had what they had, but I so envied Jim Kelly’s afro.  Big and round and perfect in every way.  And it never got messed up, no matter how bad the fight he was engaged in.  I had a ‘fro when I was a kid.  Lopsided, airy, crooked, uneven… and then Jim would show up in some movie and completely mock my pathetic afro.  Say like his afro in the film ‘The Tattoo Connection’ in which it was beyond awesome.  The movie wasn’t so bad either.

In Hong Kong, a daring daytime heist has resulted in the snatching of The Diamond of Legend.  We just called it that.  Back stateside the insurance company that has insured this diamond for 3 mil knows they will go under if they have to pay out, which begs the question why they insured it in the first place, but we’re not going to ask that.  Fortunately they have a new hire, a former CIA badass by the name Mr. Lucas (Kelly) who claims he is often called the Black Six Million Dollar Man.  I don’t know who called him that but they need to stop, because its dumb.

Back in Hong Kong this heist was pulled off by the Lu gang, led by Boss Lu (Sing Chen).  Boss Lu has a right hand man in Tin Hau (Tao-Liang Tan) who kicks much ass, but has the misfortune of having a real pure heart which doesn’t lend itself well to the gangster game.  Another thing that’s probably isn’t in Tin Hau’s best interest is his love for Lia the Dancing Girl (Nami Misaki) as she is the property of Boss Lu and he can have her anytime he wants.  And she tends to whine an awful lot. 

Boss Lu is concerned as there is a Black Man with a perfect afro in his town asking questions, and he can’t have that.  He declares that Lucas must be made dead, and soon.  Uh… good luck with that.  Thus we have the initial meeting between the ultra cool Lucas and Tin Hau, the man with the lethal feet who will ask Mr. Lucas during the fight ‘how do my feet taste’.   Truth of the matter was that the fight was a standstill, but they will meet again.

The fact that Lucas escaped death so easily does not please Boss Lu, so against Tin Hau’s wishes, and observing Lucas has a thing for the dancing girl, he dispatches her to seduce him and then put this fancy new drug from America in his drink.  Now check out what this drug does… it’s instantly addictive, it quickens the heart rate, it then kills you and it looks like little rocks.  I don’t know if ‘The Tattoo Connection’ knows this or not, but they just invented Crack Cocaine for this movie.  Oh, and that didn’t work either.  I’m no secret agent, but if I’m pushing up on a chick one day and she tells me to get lost because I’m black, then the next day she’s all gung ho to go back to my place, I know something is up. 

Eventually Lucas is able to track down the Lu gang, and eventually he and Tin Hau are going to have to go head up for real.  Also, eventually, since Tin Hau and Lia want to leave the game, not realizing that there is never any way out of the game, he’s going to have to go head up with Boss Lu as well… and Boss Lu has crazy skills.  Let the Kung Fu fighting commence.

What we have here with ‘The Tattoo Connection’, often labeled as ‘Black Belt Jones 2’ for no real reason since Black Belt Jones isn’t in this movie, is a fairly straight forward kung fu flick with one key omission and one key addition.  The omission would be no murdered Master in this movie, and the addition would be the inclusion titties.  Lots of them.  So in that sense, now that I think about it, ‘The Tattoo Connection’ plays out more like one of those Sonny Chiba Japanese exploitation films than a traditional kung fu flick, which totally works for us over here at the FCU.

Since we’ve deemed ‘The Tattoo Connection’ an exploitation film, this means it is automatically excused from having to make too much sense.  I mean you would think a three million dollar diamond would be a little better protected, and you’d think Hong Kong police might have an issue with some brother from the USA walking around town snapping the necks of various citizens of their town, even if they have it coming.  It’s not like Lucas is a cop or anything, just some random guy beating folks up in Hong Kong.

But sense making in an action / exploitation flick is negligible if the action is good and the exploitation is plentiful and ‘The Tattoo Connection’ comes through in spades in these categories.  Jim Kelly has never been cooler, his ‘fro has never been more perfect, his moves have never been crisper… clearly proving that having Hong Kong kung fu professionals choreograph fight sequences works way better than having certain American directors film fight sequences.  And we’re looking at you Robert Clouse (Black Belt Jones) and Al Adamson (Black Samurai).  The narrative blows past plot points and logic as if logic were on fire, keeping the movie constantly and motion, only occasionally slowing down to show some woman’s breast in the most gratuitous of ways. 

The tragedy of ‘The Tattoo Connection’ is that apparently there were problems on set which pretty much ended Jim Kelly’s potential Hong Kong film career, a career I’m certain would’ve easily eclipsed his spotty American film career.  This makes us sad.  But at least we have the ‘Tattoo Connection’, a seriously fun slice of action and nonsense that should bring a smile to the face of almost every fan of this genre. 

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