Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Potato's More Half-Baked. 60% Baked, Tops

I think Hot Potato is supposed to be a sequel to Black Belt Jones, though the later film never references the earlier one. Jim Kelly still plays Jones, and he gets sent into Thailand to rescue an abducted Senator's daughter from Carter Rangoon who is trying to instigate a civil war between two halves of the country by forcing the Senator to rescind an aid package he'd promised. But Rangoon's going to try and trick the rescue operation with a double of the Senator's daughter, but the double decides to steal some evidence of Rangoon's treachery towards both sides of the Civil War, and so our heroes are pursued by all manner of strange henchmen. There's guys in skintight black bodysuits, except they look knitted, and there's no mask or anything. Then there's a group of guys in cavemen loincloth outfits.

If they'd run into one more oddly themed group, I'd have started to suspect this version of Thailand was a big fan of The Warriors.

Jones has himself a crack squad, between Johnny Chicago constantly demanding more money, even stopping in the middle of a fight to go argue that he needs to be reimbursed for his damaged hat, to the White Rhino, a fat guy we're introduced to as he tries to win the right to sleep with a girl by outeating the madam of the establishment (I fear she may have had a heart attack), and Detective Pam Varaje, who spends a lot of time being thwarted in her attempts to be sensible and stealthy by the bickering Americans.

It's not as strong a film as the first one. It spends a lot of time on romantic subplots, between Rhino winning a wife and child in a fight while they rest in a village, Jones trying to win over Pam, and Chicago falling for the false Senator's daughter. But that's not what I'm watching the movie to see, so it feels like filler. Rhino kind of got on my nerves after awhile, the fat guy comic relief, always has food hidden somewhere, the joke got played out kind of quick. Him and Chicago busting each other's chops worked a better, because it played off their personalities, Chicago being very concerned with making this gig pay off, and being kind of precise, and Rhino kind of playing up his lackadaisical tendencies to annoy Chicago.

To the extent the film works, I'd credit Jim Kelly. He has a fair amount of charm, and usually gives the appearance of a guy having a great time. Jones clearly enjoys humiliating fools in fights, though the thing he does I enjoy the most is how he'll approach one bad guy and get into a ready stance. Then he abruptly stands up straight and walks lightly past that guy towards more bad guys. Like, he wasn't surrounded sufficiently to make it interesting, so he had to get more surrounded before he was really ready to fight.

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