One Down, Two to Go

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

A major karate tournament is underway, one which has attracted the highest level of talent from all over the place. A lot of money is involved, but most of the fighters are interested in proving their skills, as winning would mean going through some of the toughest, most skilled warriors in the world. These fighters want to win more than anything, but some are willing to break the rules to make sure they don’t lose. Chuck (Jim Kelly) suspects that someone is rigging the fights, as some fighters that shouldn’t win have been advancing in the tournament. When he snoops around the locker room of the suspect cheats, he finds himself looking down the barrel of a gun and soon after, he winds up shot for his efforts. So he and fight promoter Ralph (Richard Roundtree) call in some out of town help, since they’ve discovered the mob is involved. The help arrives in Cal (Fred Williamson) and J (Jim Brown), two tough as nails dudes with big guns and of course, itchy trigger fingers. Now the four seek to settle the score with the mob, but it won’t be an easy task, given the sheer numbers that oppose them. But if anyone could take down these mafia thugs, its the four baddest dudes around and they’re ready to wage war…

If you’re a fan of soul cinema, then this movie looks like an all star game of sorts, with four of the biggest names in blaxploitation. And for genre fans, how can you not raise your expectations when Jim Kelly, Fred Williamson, Richard Roundtree, and Jim Brown all share the screen and kick some serious ass? As cool as it all sounds however, One Down, Two to Go simply isn’t as much as fun as it should be. This movie has some moments, but aside from the in ring fights, action comes off as a little weak. I mean, with this cast in front of the camera and Williamson as director, I expected a whirlwind of gunfights, fistfights, and insane car chases. But this is more laid back than anticipated, as the bulk of the action takes place in the ring, instead of out in the streets, where genre fans would rather watch. I was also let down by how the cast was used, as we don’t see all four around too often and in the case of Kelly, he is given a thin shard of screen time, which is a real shame, as he is fun to watch. I would rather see all four engaged in various action sequences, but instead, they’re divided and minimal action follows. You’ll see a couple explosions, some humorous lines, and of course, ample white casualties, but this just isn’t as good as it should have been. So if you’re a big fan of blaxploitation, then give One Down, Two to Go a rental, but don’t expect a new genre classic out of this one.

In addition to having one of the lead roles here, Fred Williamson also served as producer and director of the picture. As such, I am surprised he didn’t scale back his own character, so he could focus more on his work behind the scenes. Instead, he keeps a substantial role and in truth, it seems as if he increases his own screen time at the expense of his costars, especially in the case of Jim Kelly. But as genre fans know, Williamson is a hoot to watch with the right material and he makes sure he has some good scenes here. Of course, we’ve seen all this before and Williamson doesn’t break much new ground, but its still fun at times. I would have liked to see more of all the main stars together, but perhaps Williamson had some plan of his own. This might not be his best work or even close, but in any event, its good to see him back, especially with some of the genre’s best known players around him. Other films with Williamson include Original Gangstas, The New Gladiators, Vigilante, Hell Up in Harlem, and From Dusk Till Dawn. The cast also includes Jim Brown (Any Given Sunday, The Dirty Dozen), Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon, Black Belt Jones), and Richard Roundtree (Shaft, Q: The Winged Serpent).

Video: How does it look?

One Down, Two to Go is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I didn’t expect much in this department, but once again, the folks at Anchor Bay have worked some magic, as this movie looks excellent. The print is very clean, with minimal grain and even less debris, so the visuals are never held back. I do think time has toned down the colors a shade, but they still come off as bright and consistent, so no serious worries there. As far as contrast, I found black levels to be accurate throughout, with few signs of age related wear & tear to mention. I am quite impressed with this treatment, as given the low budget roots and time of production, this presentation looks very, very good in all respects.

Audio: How does it sound?

As this soundtrack is mono, don’t expect much presence, but this is still a solid, more than acceptable presentation. The cool musical soundtrack deserves more punch, but aside from that, this mono option seems up to the task. I mean, the explosions and such seem restrained, but for mono, it all sounds decent enough. The track has no audible hiss, which is nice and the harshness is also minimal, another welcome touch. I had no problems with the sound effects or music, both of which come across in fine form and show no signs of serious flaws. Not all of these older mono tracks turn out well, but thankfully, this one does.

Supplements: What are the extras?

An audio commentary is the main course here, as Fred Williamson discusses this all star soul cinema production. He is joined by DVD producer Perry Martin, who prompts Williamson with questions and the like. As such, Williamson is always talking about something interesting, from how the project started, to the cast, to his thoughts on dolly shots. A very informative session, this is a must listen for fans of soul cinema. This disc also includes a talent file on Williamson, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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