Directed by David Lowell Rich/Henry Levin
Produced by Bernard Schwartz/Philip Hazleton
Written by Ranald MacDougall/Charles Eric Johnson
Pam Grier is undisputably The Queen of The Blaxploitation Era but you will find some argument as to who was The King. But for me there is no argument. It’s Fred Williamson. There’s no way I can explain to those of you reading this who didn’t grow up during the 1970s and 1980s what it meant to me as a young black man in Brooklyn to see Fred Williamson up there on the big screen playing characters that said to me that there was nothing cooler than being a Black Man. Fred Williamson was Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery and Steve McQueen all rolled up into one.
I recently watched THAT MAN BOLT for this review. I hadn’t seen it in about 10 years and I really was amazed at how much Fred Williamson’s charm and charisma propels a movie that actually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. His character of Jefferson Bolt is one that I wish I created: he ‘s a licensed professional courier. One of the best three in the world. And for those of you reading this review born before The Internet, yes, this was an actual profession. People were actually paid to take huge sums of money from place to place. His professional qualifications for the job are more than impressive. He’s a black belt in karate. Ex-Captain in the U.S. Special Forces. Masters degree in Physics from MIT. In my own personal cosmology I carry around inside my head I image that Jefferson Bolt might well have attended The Banzai Institute.
Jefferson Bolt (Fred Williamson) is framed by what I assume is the British government to take a briefcase with a million dollars to Mexico. Along the way Bolt finds out that the million bucks is counterfeit and he’s been once again set up to take the fall for transporting counterfeit money internationally. Never once does the movie explains why Jefferson Bolt is being set up to take the fall for transporting a million bucks in funny money when the actual operation to do so must have cost way more than a million dollars. But it’s all part of a larger plot that again, I don’t understand why Bolt wasn’t just hired to go after the movie’s Big Bad in the first place.
That plot of THAT MAN BOLT really doesn’t matter and it’s more complicated than the James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever.” What you really want to see the movie for is not only Fred Williamson at his most charming but also for the locations as a lot this movie was filmed in Hong Kong and Las Vegas. And Fred Williamson does indeed work at making Jefferson Bolt a real character which makes me think he was intending for this to be a franchise for him. Jefferson Bolt does indeed have a unique motivation for him to be caught up in dangerous situations as well as his background so that when he gets into some really bizarre situations (such as having to use fireworks to get himself out of fighting a bunch of kung fu killers) we somehow buy it.
What we don’t buy is Fred Williamson as a martial artist. You look at the movie poster and it proclaims that a large number of actual real life badass martial artists are in the movie. Then it would behoove you to have the star of the movie at least look like he’d took some kind of training in martial arts before he gets into fight scenes with them.
But other than that, THAT MAN BOLT is a solid Blaxploitation movie and one I recommend simply because it’s got Fred Williamson and I’m always going to recommend you watch any movie with Fred Williamson. The movie also has Teresa Graves in a supporting role and here you see the wonderful chemistry that they would display in next year’s “Black Eye” which is a movie I also heartily recommend as if shows Fred Williamson in a completely different light and allows him the chance to actually act.
But by all means, if you get a chance, check out THAT MAN BOLT. If it had been received better and done more box office, we might have seen more adventures of Jefferson Bolt and I would for one would have loved to see them. I suspect that Fred Williamson had a hand in the creation of this character as he’s too rich for just one movie. THAT MAN BOLT is solid entertainment if you’re in a Blaxploitation mood on a weekend and want to indulge. This is one of the best.