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Warner Home Video presents
A Piece of the Action (1977)

"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)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: February 03, 2004

Stars: Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, James Earl Jones
Other Stars: Denise Nichols, Hope Clarke, Tracy Reed
Director: Sidney Poitier

MPAA Rating: PG for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:15m:02s
Release Date: January 13, 2004
UPC: 085392888627
Genre: action comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

More mainstream than typical blaxploitation due to the presence of popular stars Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier, A Piece of the Action was the third and last pairing of the two and the "franchise" is showing a little wear. The film's plot is quite weak and the charm is stretched a little thin as well. Not much is summoned up that is superior to a typical "urban" television comedy of the era like Good Times or Welcome Back, Kotter. The biggest problem is that the script just never jells and comes across as a patchwork of bits and improvisations. Coming in at two hours and fifteen minutes, somehow A Piece of the Action seemed like more than the whole pie.

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 and rarely feels comfortable as either. Some of the dialogue is cloying and stiffly delivered street lingo as reality is watered-down for some kind of fantasy street world that we see in television and movies. 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.

The cast includes Denise Nicholas as Lila French and Tracy Reed as Manny's girlfriend Nikki. A very young Sheryl Lee Ralph appears as one of the "deliquents," Barbara, and has a very dynamic scene in which she demands more respect from the instructors. 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!!, 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.

Given the choice of the three films that Cosby and Poitier made together, this one lags well behind both Uptown Saturday Night and Let's Do It Again. For completists only.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a very decent anamorphic widescreen presentation, A Piece of the Action looks pretty darn good, if a little TV-ish. Nice color balance and very little of that 1970s "grain and grit" that is so often a feature of DVDs of films from that era.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio transfer features Dolby Digital and the disc sounds fine at a lower volume levels but if you turn it up, there seems to be some distortion to the music. The dialogue is crisply rendered and very understandable throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 34 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Let's Do It Again, Uptown Saturday Night
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Dynamite Duo: A Retrospective (7m:30s): Inteviewees include James Earl Jones, Denise Nicholas, Jimmie Walker, John Amos, Julius Harris, screenwriter Richard Wesley, critic Armond White, and Dr. Todd Boyd. Positive aspects of the work of Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby are lauded by the guests and, even though A Piece of the Action is not an example of their best work, they are important film stars, and also forces in black cinema. A nice addition to the film.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

The lesser of the three Cosby and Poitier collaborations, A Piece of the Action doesn't have much to recommend it. The charm of the cast can do little in a poorly conceived script and much of the social comment/comedy is stilted and contrived. Not recommended unless you want all three.


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