On paper, Bucktown is a dream come true for blaxploitation fans; although Pam Grier and ”The Hammer” Fred Williamson would go on to star in other movies together, Bucktown would mark the first time the King and Queen would share the screen. With that being said, does a movie with such automatic high expectations deliver when it comes to living up to it’s potential? Well fear not my funk soul brothers and sisters; not only does it live up to expectations, but it just so happens to be one of the best blaxploitations ever made.
Bucktown opens with Duke (Fred Williamson) getting off the train in Missouri to tend his dead brothers affairs; in the will, Duke also inherited his brothers nightclub, so he decides to hang around and keep it open until he can legally sell it. However, the cops of Bucktown are corrupt rednecks who try to extort his business for $100 a week, which only causes Duke to fight back and call in some of his friends from back in the city, led by Roy (Thalmus Rasulala). Once Duke, Roy and the gang clear the town of the corrupt police officers all seems well and good; that’s until Roy and his friends realize the gold mine they’ve walked into and start extorting the town for more money than the cops. Now it’s up to Duke to put a stop to the people he brought in to help him in the first place.
In order to fully appreciate Bucktown, it’s important to leave your logic at the door, and accept that 1970’s Missouri was like The Old West; a place where the sheriffs were corrupt and outlaws could take over the town without law enforcement batting so much as an eyelid. But we don’t watch blaxploitation for its regard for the law and consequences for breaking it; these folks are bad asses who do whatever the hell the please whenever they feel like it. Bucktown is essentially a western; only cowboy hats have been swapped for flannel jackets and saloons have upgraded to flashy red light district nightclubs.
Pam Grier and Fred Williamson are on top form, but those used to seeing Pam as Foxy Brown (1974) or Coffy (1973) might be disappointed. Here her role is much more subdued; opting instead to play a supporting role as Fred’s nagging love interest instead of the femme fatale killing machine we all love. This marked a change of pace for her at the time, and she played her part with conviction still, demonstrating a versatility that would contribute to her getting the part of Jackie Brown (1997) 22 years later . This movie is the Fred Williamson and Thalmus Rasulala show; and even though we don’t get to see as much of Pam as we’d like to, it doesn’t detriment the film at all.
The action scenes are nice and gritty, like a 70’s action movie should be; there’s some bar fights which include pool queues being broken and bottles being smashed; the brawling is rugged and manly, with enough testosterone on show than a John Wayne movie, and a final showdown that makes you want to go build a shelf afterwards just to score man points. Right after I watched this movie I put on a Lumberjack shirt, grabbed my axe and took to the forest to chop wood as I dreamed about being able to fight in fine clothes and bed women like Pam Grier.
So is Bucktown worth your time? If you can track down a copy I strongly urge you to check it out. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it delivers all the goods a gritty action movie should. The setting of Missouri is a welcome change as well; blaxploitation movies were mostly set in cities, with the exception of a handful. I love Bucktown and so would you. 8/10
Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Thalmus Rasulala, Carl Weathers