Trouble Man (1972)
Director: Ivan Dixon
Starring: Robert Hooks, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, William Smithers, Paula Kelly & Julius Harris
Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
When full-time hustler and licensed private eye Mr. T (Robert Hooks, N.Y.P.D.) is hired by two thugs to investigate their compromised gambling operation, Trouble Man finds the smooth talking enforcer engaged in a web of gang wars and murder in order to clear his slandered name. Paul Winfield (The Terminator), Ralph Waite (The Waltons), William Smithers (Scorpio), Paula Kelly (Soylent Green) and Julius Harris (Super Fly) costar.
A step above the average blaxploitation feature, Trouble Man highlights the bustling lifestyle of South Central’s own Mr. T whose expert pool skills, fashionable style and ladies man swagger compliment his no-nonsense street smarts and sharp business savvy as the ghetto’s personal problem solver. Approached by local thugs Chalky (Winfield) and Pete (Waite) to uncover the masked thieves responsible for disrupting their gambling circuit, Mr. T finds himself entangled in a gang war when rival crime lord Big (Harris) is gunned down, laying the blame on the very capable hands of the inner city private detective. Pursued by vengeful gangsters and local law enforcement, Mr. T unbuttons his expensive jacket and leads a one man army to bring his foolish framers down. Charismatically charged, Robert Hooks headlines as the smooth soul brother whose martial arts expertise and whip-cracking demeanor ignites the film’s contagiously cool aura while, Motown legend Marvin Gaye’s choice musical accompaniments can’t be overstated. Tightly edited by Michael Kahn before his career spanning collaborations with Director Steven Spielberg, Trouble Man is wickedly fun with memorable performances and action-packed gang warfare justifying itself as one bad motha worth investigating.
With the exception of speckling observed during dimly lit sequences, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is overwhelmingly clean with no overt levels of damage while, the film’s inherent softness, as a product of its time, remains intact without compromising detail. Meanwhile, flesh tones are eye-pleasing with more flamboyantly colorful attire and vibrant 70s decor popping nicely. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that occasionally requires volume increases, dialogue is largely audible with few softer spoken exchanges registering not as strongly. Thankfully, Marvin Gaye’s main title theme and other melodic queues are projected sharply with gunfire effects throughout the film’s final act making appropriate statements. Relatively scant, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historians Nathanial Thompson & Howard S. Berger with a Trailer Gallery featuring Trouble Man (2:30), Truck Turner (5:13), Across 110th Street (2:58), Cotton Comes to Harlem (2:11) and Report to the Commissioner (2:21) concluding the extras.
Absurdly included amongst the fifty worst films of all time in Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss’ 1978 paperback, Trouble Man is far better and more entertaining than its reputation suggests. Battling to clear his name while always ensuring time for beautiful girls, Robert Hooks leads the way with an entertaining turn loaded with attitude and leaving his enemies calling for mercy. Boasting a soulful score from Marvin Gaye and a film appreciators audio commentary, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ HD treatment of this underrated blaxploitation picture is as cool as the original Mr. T.
Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Trouble Man can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.