Not Quite Parker?: Trouble Man (1972)

Note: For those of you who are new here, the “Not Quite Parker” category is where I look at pastiches of, homages to, references to, and rip-offs of the Parker novels. 

Mild spoilers, but this is a pretty typical crime and blaxploitation flick, so nothing in it is all that unpredictable.

Robert Hooks plays a sort of fixer who goes by “Mr. T.” If you’re in a jam, you can give Mr. T some money, and he’ll get you out of it (he is somewhat similar to Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder in this regard, although he predates Scudder). He’s brilliant, he’s a badass, all women love him, and he’ll whip you at pool.

Chalky (Paul Winfield) and Pete (Ralph Waite) drop by the pool hall where Mr. T holds court. Chalky and Pete run dice games, Chalky on the black side of town, Pete on the white, and lately those games have been hit by a masked and armed gang. They need Mr. T to help put a stop to it.

But all is not as it seems. When Mr. T is performing reconnaissance at one of the dice games, the “gang,” which is really Chalky and Pete’s flunkies, hits it. Chalky and Pete frame Abbey Walsh (John Edwards) as a gang member, with Chalky killing Abbey in the process.

And here is the complication: Abbey is a loyal henchman of Mr. Big (a name spoofed in the blaxploitation parody I’m Gonna Git You Sucka), another L.A. crime kingpin, and wouldn’t make a move without Mr. Big’s permission, indicating that Mr. Big has broken an unwritten contract. In addition, someone is tipping off everyone he can, including both the cops and Mr. Big, that Mr. T greased Abbey.

So now this problem solver has problems of his own.

Trouble Man is a solid, better-than-average blaxploitation flick, primarily noted these days for its soundtrack by Marvin Gaye, his first release after the classic What’s Going On album. The movie is mildly recommended to fans of the genre.

While I was watching the film, I was struck by two similarities to The Hunter.

The first is the table-turning aspect. Like in The Hunter, Mr. T is shafted by the people he is working with (or, in this instance, for). The third act has him hunting down those who have betrayed him, with prejudice.

Of course, a plot like this is hardly original to The Hunter, and certainly could be just a coincidence. However, the feel of those scenes gave me that Parker vibe.

Still, that wouldn’t have been enough to prompt this writeup.

What prompted it is a scene in that third act that strongly suggests to me that writer John D.F. Black had read The Hunter.

Mr. T’s price for assisting Chalky and Pete in solving their fake problem was $10,000. Mr. T has cornered Chalky. Mr. T has a gun to him, and is having Chalky open a safe to get the money.

Chalky: I’ll give you thirty-thousand dollars, man!

Mr. T: Ten-thousand five-hundred* is what you owe me, pimp. That’s all I want.

Now that sounds too much like The Hunter for me to think it’s entirely coincidental.

Anyone else seen Trouble Man? What say you?

*The extra $500 is to replace Mr. T’s suit.

Trouble Man – Trailer