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A Piece of the Action (1977)



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A Piece of the Action is considered the third film in the Uptown Saturday Night series, although except for starring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby, there isn't a whole lot it has in common with the other two movies. It has a more serious slant to it, a bit lighter on the humor and con games and heavier on character and atmosphere. There are heists and swindles, but instead of being the point of the film, they're treated as matter-of-fact little details, except in the opening half hour, which sets up the characters and the premise of the plot.

Poitier and Cosby play seasoned crooks who get caught by a retiring cop (James Earl Jones) who blackmails them into working for a youth center aimed at getting angry kids from poor neighborhoods gainful employment. It doesn't play out quite the way you think. Although there are predictable elements to the story, Poitier spares us a lot of the agonizing machinations characteristic of too many movies that touch on this kind of socially significant material. Still, a lot of it is uneven. Early on, two of the kids have prolonged, redundant monologues that really should have been cut in half. The extra time could have been given to two romantic subplots, underplayed even for being relatively minor to the overall story.

A Piece of the Action is less fun than its predecessors, but more fun than this review probably makes it sound. Faults and all, it's actually quite a satisfying mixed bag of goodies. Poitier has some great scenes with the kids, Cosby has some nice low key humor, and the caper plotline connecting all the pieces together has a kind of elegant subtlety.

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