Blerd Film Club: Troubleman


Hogan's Heroes meets Star Trek with a soundtrack by Marvin Gaye sounds like something out of a fever dream. Still, that's exactly what Trouble Man the 1972 film is. Written by John D. F. Frank of Star Trek fame, directed by Ivan Dixon and edited by Michael Kahn of Hogan's Heroes. Then just for good measure Michael Hugo from Dynasty in charge of cinematography. This movie should have never worked, but it worked and it worked well.

Mr. T, no not that one, is a man of multiple skills and professions. He's a pool shark, a registered private investigator, occasionally works as a bail's bond man and just solves problems in his town. We meet him as a man named Chalky and his "Caucasian partner," Pete hire Mr. T to learn who's been robbing their dice games. He agrees but first he has to go down town and beat a property manager who's negligence caused a Black child to be injured. 

At the dice game the robbery is halted when Chalky shoots one of the robbers in the back. Mr. T leaves the body with Chalky and his men to be dealt with. However, it isn't long before Mr. T is arrested for murder. The police captain Joe informs Mr. T that he's a mean and tough guy, so he Mr. T is doing something illegal because Captain Joe would do something illegal. In reality, Joe is probably a little racist. Outside the station Mr. T is confronted by Mr. Big's men which leads to a visit. Mr. Big believes Mr. T shot his man, but Mr. T believes he was set up. That's when things get wild and really start to go down.

There's no deep meaning behind this film. It's a film with some wonderful shots of sprawling highways and sweeping music. There's some intense well choreographed shootouts, especially compared to other Blaxploitation films. There's some flashy cars, nice suits and honestly it's always refreshing to see Blaxploitation films that don't focus on the crime side of the law.

The original Shaft came out in 1971 and is considered the first true Black Dick or Private Eye film. But, I think Troubleman is just as important. Shaft did a lot to push the Black Power narrative, which I'm all about. Still sometimes it felt like being beat over the head with the message. However, Troubleman keeps the same message; help your fellow Black man. Yet they manage to do it without hammering. John D.F. Frank is a white man, and worked on both films. I think he got it write with this one.

While Shaft is very much Black power through masculinity, Troubleman doesn't go that far. Don't get me wrong, Mr. T is man's man. But, he's also more willing to talk it out before he shoots it out. He's a fan of stylish suits and has no problem wearing pink. Does Mr. T have more than one love interest? Yeah but he only sleeps with one, one is an ex and one is someone he flirts with. Mr. T keeps a cool head, yes he gets mad, but he also demonstrates much more sympathy than Shaft. 

Critics didn't exactly love this film and did a lot to say it was stuck in the shadow of Shaft but I think it was a better film. It did a lot more to make T an actual private investigator than loose cannon. We witness him solve crimes, do research and even forensics. The gun fights are intense, the last 40 minutes really goes 0-100 but this is still a much more laid back film than many Blaxploitation films and should be praised for showing that restraint.

You can check out some of my short stories at 12 AM Fiction or if you like vampires follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast if you enjoy pro wrestling.

Blerd Film Club: Troubleman Blerd Film Club: Troubleman Reviewed by Darrell S. on Friday, February 26, 2021 Rating: 5

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