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A Piece of the Action
A Piece of the Action
Actors: Thomas Benjamin, Tamu Blackwell, Hope Clarke, Bill Cosby, Gloria Delaney
Genres: Comedy, Mystery & Suspense, African American Cinema
PG     2004     2hr 15min

A pair of con men are obliged to help a social worker set some kids on the right track.


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Movie Details

Actors: Thomas Benjamin, Tamu Blackwell, Hope Clarke, Bill Cosby, Gloria Delaney
Genres: Comedy, Mystery & Suspense, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Mystery & Suspense, African American Cinema
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/13/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 15min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

A Piece Of The Action!
WILLIE A YOUNG II | Houston, TX. | 02/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This was the last pairing of Cosby and Poitier in 1977 and watching it, you can easily see where Quentin Tarantino and a lot of other young filmmakers get ideas for plotting, pacing and musical backdrops. The most refreshing thing about the film is that it manages to deliver a message about empowering today's youth without beating you over the head with it's preachiness. Brilliantly scored by the late, great Curtis Mayfield and featuring contributions from The Staple Singers, "A Piece..." perfectly encapsulates it's time without sinking to the depths of 'Blaxploitation' and buffoonery. The terrific all-star cast includes James Earl Jones, the impossibly gorgeous Denise Nicholas matched only by the lovely Tracy Reed, a very young Sheryl Lee Ralph and the soon- to- be- a- star-via-"What's Happening!", Ernest Thomas. One scene is of particualar note: one of the youngsters involved in the job search program, Willie, delivers a powerful, tear-filled monologue about why he has to find a job 'or something, so that he can be a man' that just breaks my heart and lends the film an air of poignance that elevates it above the level of simple comedy. With that said, "A Piece Of The Action" is an all time favorite that contains elements of drama, action & suspense (I could watch these people plot, scam and sneak to get Nikki back all day!) and comedy that makes for a very satisfying viewing experience. A Classic. Go get a piece!"
An old school film helps a healthy heart
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 03/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Gentlemen, I want to be fair and relieve your minds. Neither of you knows what my business with the other one is. Therefore you are safe from each other. This is confidential. Trust me."
- Joshua Burke (James Earl Jones)

Well, this movie is more mainstream than the typical blaxploitation due to the stardom of Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier, "A Piece of the Action" was the third and last pairing of this sequel. The film's plot is quite weak but the charm is still there. Charming crooks Dave Anderson (Cosby) and Manny Durrell (Poitier) are high-class con men who have never run afoul of the law. Joshua Burke (James Earl Jones) is a retiring detective with enough evidence on the both of them to put them behind bars. He offers to maintain his silence if the crooks will go straight and do work at a youth center for delinquents. Thus our story line kicks off but goes nowhere fast. At first, the crooks are reluctant and unwilling (and so are the kids). As time goes by, trust and admiration is exchanged (as well as cold cash) and progress is made to get jobs for the kids.

The film walks a difficult path between comedy and social commentary but feels very comfortable to watch. Some of the dialogue is over done but others are truly heartwarming...I teared up twice on different occasions. Poitier trades on his performance as the school teacher who brings a London East End class to life in To Sir, With Love. Cosby's performance leans more toward his films that bombed, with mostly unrelated mugging and schtick making up his performance, that hopefully is improvised. Denise Nicholas as Lila French and Tracy Reed as Manny's girlfriend Nikki portray there roles quite well. A very young Sheryl Lee Ralph appears as one of the "delinquents," Barbara, and has a very dynamic scene in which she demands more respect from the instructors.

Close to the middle of this film do look for Poitier's older brother Cyril as the janitor of the youth center, Mr. Theodore, and soon-to-be star of television's What's Happening - The Complete First Season!!, as Raj, Earnest Thomas. The charm of the actors is really the best part of A Piece of the Action, and it shines despite the poor quality of the script. Another positive aspect of the film is the potent score by Superfly composer Curtis Mayfield, which also features singer Mavis Staples on some songs. It is good, clean, wholesome comedy. If you're from this era the memories will hit you strongly from the clothing, music; even to the "language."

Among the Best of its kind!
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 01/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I LOVED this movie as a young teenager. Cosby and Poitier are forced to mend their ways and do the "To Sir With Love" thing with kids in a ghetto. Mighty satisfying scenes that are still worth watching today without being hokey. Love the fadeout where Bill Cosby does "the bump" with this heavyset lady that sends him halfway across the room (this scene is surprisingly done in a way that doesn't degrade the lady in question) as they dance to the Staple Singers' title song. But enough of that-SEE IT, and ENJOY!"
"You don't get something for nothing!"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 11/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"At a time when the `blaxploitation' genre was prevalent in the cinema, a handful of individuals tried to provide an intelligent, positive alternative, one being Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field, To Sir, with Love, In the Heat of the Night), with a trio of films he not only directed, but also co-starred in with Bill Cosby, including Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Let's Do It Again (1975), and this feature, titled A Piece of the Action (1977), which would mark Poitier's last role in front of the camera for just over ten years, as he focused his efforts towards directing. Also appearing is James Earl Jones (Field of Dreams, The Hunt for Red October), Denise Nicholas (Blacula, Let's Do It Again), Hope Clarke (Basquiat), Tracy Reed (Car Wash, Running Scared), and Titos Vandis (The Exorcist, Oh, God!), along with Ja'net DuBois ("Good Times", I'm Gonna Git You Sucka), Frances Foster (Crooklyn), Eric Laneuville (A Force of One), Ernest `Rog' Thomas ("What's Happening!!"), and Sheryl Lee Ralph (The Mighty Quinn, Skin Deep), in her first film role.

As the film begins we meet two men, Dave Anderson (Cosby), a burglar who specializes in safecracking, and Manny Durrell (Poitier), a conman who's just fleeced a local criminal boss, Mr. Bruno (Vandis) out of a whole lot of dough. The activities of both men draw the attention of the police, including that of soon to be retired detective Joshua Burke (Jones), but neither man is fingered for their respective crimes...that is until Burke blackmails David and Manny into working for a local community improvement center. The two men, not knowing their blackmailer, or each other, for that matter, become reluctant philanthropists, stuck having to train and find jobs for 30 inner city juvenile delinquents who seemingly have little desire or motivation to make their lives better, and are only participating in the program because of a court order (one thing they do have a lot of is attitude). As the men begin their `penance' work, they also try to figure out who is behind their predicament, as if they can discern the identity of their `benefactor', they may also find a way out, but matters become difficult as Dave sort of falls for the woman who heads the community center, Ms. Lila French (Nicholas), while Mr. Bruno and his associates learn the identity of the person responsible for conning them i.e. Manny (it's not so much about the money, but an issue of disrespect). Interestingly enough, David and Manny's work with the troubled youths begins to show positive results, but they may not be around long enough to enjoy the successes as the mobsters seek their revenge.

While this isn't my favorite Poitier/Cosby pairing, it's still a really well done movie, and definitely worth checking out. Actually, I believe all three films The Cos and Poitier did were originally intended more for African American audiences, to show they didn't have to settle for the stereotypical black caricatures streaming out of Hollywood at the time, but the movies had such appeal that most all audiences appreciated them, and, subsequently, they did very well. The main difference here compared to their two, previous outings is this one has less humor and slapsticky comedy. It's almost like there's two movies here, one dealing with Poitier and Cosby's character trying to get out of their predicament, and then a second featuring Poitier sort of reprising his role from his 1967 film To Sir, with Love, which featured him as a teacher trying to infuse a sense of self worth into a bunch of snotty English students (there are a number of touching, borderline sappy sequences, as the kids come to terms with their reality, and realize they have to make their own opportunities). Each plot is given equal time, finally converging into one story, resulting in a running time of just over two hours. Another big difference is here Poitier and Cosby start out as criminals, eventually seeing the error of their ways, while in the previous films their characters were more along the lines of working class fellows who get humorously tangled up with criminal elements. The chemistry between Poitier and Cosby is most definitely present as it was in the previous films, with Poitier as sort of the straight man to Cosby's comical character, and a lot of credit goes to a strong, professional supporting cast headed by James Earl Jones, as the no nonsense retired detective using the men to help those less fortunate for his own reasons. It did seem a little odd how quickly the kids caught on and turned things around for themselves, but then Poitier's character did employ some unique techniques. Another aspect that helped a lot was the inclusion of a number of fine looking women, including Denise Nicholas, Tracy Reed, and Hope Clarke, who are all excellent performers that held their own well against Cosby, Poitier, and Jones. There was sort of an odd subplot featuring Manny, his girlfriend Nikki, played by Reed (the two were living together), and an unexpected visit from her disapproving parents (and an alcoholic aunt played by DuBois), I wasn't sure where this aspect was going, but I think it was mainly meant to show Manny's affections for Nikki, as later she's kidnapped by the goons, and used as leverage against Poitier's character. The story moves along well, but given all that's going on in the film, some might get a little lost if they're not paying attention. Some aspects of the story could have been simplified, or even removed, but given the movie was an all around good time, I didn't mind it running longer than it needed too...I think my favorites scenes involved Bill Cosby's character dancing, once in a disco, and again at the very end during the credits. I have to say, some of those moves, which I don't think I've ever seen another human being perform, were outta sight. Oh, before I forget, the movie also features an excellent, original musical score by the legendary rhythm and blues artist Curtis Mayfield.

The picture on this DVD, presented in widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic, looks very good, and the Dolby Digital mono audio comes through cleanly. There are some extras included, the main one being a featurette titled Dynamite Duo: A Retrospective (7:30), which includes interviews with actors James Earl Jones, Denise Nicholas, Jimmie Walker, John Amos, Julius Harris, screenwriter Richard Wesley, New York Press critic Armond White, and USC professor and author Todd Boyd. Also included is a trailer for this film, along with ones for the films Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Let's Do It Again (1975).


By the way, horror film fans might be interested to know Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man from the Phantasm movies, makes an appearance in the latter half of this film, as a monk, of all things.