Project Retro Runway
Trouble Man (1972): 7 out of 10: Lovers of seventies high fashion will be in heaven in this blaxploitation film. All the most exquisite Italian suits (many of which still look good today unlike most seventies fashions) are on display and that horrible interior decorating (Mirrors as wallpaper seems to be a theme as well as burnt orange and brown.) Also on display is a wonderful sense of cool.
Our protagonist Mr. T (a low key “cool” performance by Robert Hooks) finds himself up against both Chalky (the always watchable Paul Winfield) as well as Mr. Big. (Julius Harris) and assorted lowlifes that clearly don’t have his fashion sense (Bad seventies fashion is copious on our antagonists.)
The movie is a pretty straightforward affair and is filmed almost as a seventies television crime drama rather than an actual blaxploitation film. It has neither the intensity nor the plotting of a good 70s crime story such as Across 110th St or The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974 film) nor does it feature the sleaze of a Shaft in Africa or Coffy (Or dozens of lesser efforts.) There is no sex (despite Paula Kelly as the love interest), and the violence is subdued (fake blood gunshots are about it). The “R” rating is most likely theme or language induced. It really wouldn’t be out of place as an ABC Movie of the Week.
Trouble Man is generally well done (How this made Medved’s The Fifty Worst Films of All Time book is beyond me) fast-paced, and it is worth a rent. At the very least there are fun moments such as WKRP’s Gordon Jump in dual roles as well as a shooting in front of a mirror that was lifted eight years later by Scarface. And there are those $500 Italian suits. How can you not be cool wearing those?