One Down, Two To Go (1982)

One DownCountry: USA
Director: Fred Williamson
Starring: Fred Williamson | Jim Brown | Richard Roundtree | Jim Kelly | Paula Sills | Laura Loftus | Joe Spinnell
Written by: Fred Williamson
Music: Herb Hetzer | Joe Trunzo

Featuring four of the biggest and baddest blaxploitation stars of the 1970s, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly, One Down, Two To Go is a kick-ass action adventure, written and directed by Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.

Watching movies is such a subjective thing. Reaction to, and appreciation for a film can be affected by so many factors. Where you alone or in packed cinema? Was the film viewed on a worn VHS tape, DVD, or Blu-ray disk? Did you see it at the cinema? Or did you see it on the big screen at 5:00 o’clock in the morning, the fifth film in an all-night Fred Williamson marathon? I ask these questions because they can truly change your perception of a film.

I have read some negative reviews of One Down, Two To Go that criticize the prolonged opening of the film, in which two of the film’s stars, Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, don’t appear for the first half hour or so. I understand that frustration. However, my experience, which was at a Fred Williamson marathon, is that the tension generated in that lead up is pivotal to enjoyment of this film. It is perfect timing. There was almost a tangible sense of electricity in the air, waiting for Jim and Fred to tun up on screen. I knew, when they stepped out of their cars – looking sharp and ready for business – ass was going to be kicked and the rulebook thrown out the window. I had to restrain myself from punching my fist into the air and whooping for joy. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s have a look at the story.

The film opens at the L.A. Tournament of Champions – a karate competition – and the two final teams are competing for the grand prize, four hundred thousand dollars. One of the teams is run by Chuck (Jim Kelly – Enter The Dragon), and as the first bout takes place, he notices his fighter is taking a lot more punishment than he should. He becomes suspicious – believing something fishy is going on. Chuck leaves his team in the care of his good friend, and promoter, Ralph (Richard Roundtree – Shaft), and heads back to the changerooms to investigate. There he discovers the opposition is loading their gloves with pieces of iron. It appears the manager of the opposition team, who has ties to a mobster, Rossi (Peter Dane) is looking to ensure he collects the grand prize.

However, before Chuck can report his discovery to the match referee, he is spotted and set upon by thugs working for Rossi. Chuck fights his way clear, but in the carpark, one of the thugs draws a pistol and shoots him in the shoulder. Though bleeding and in pain, Chuck manages to avoid capture and goes into hiding.

Meanwhile in the auditorium, when Chuck doesn’t return, Ralph realizes something has gone amiss. He searches for Chuck but cannot find him anywhere. Hiding in the shadows, Chuck makes his way to a bar, where his girlfriend, Trei (Paula Sills – who appeared in No Way Back with Williamson) works. Chuck knows mafia hoods will be watching and waiting for him, so he hides out back. When Trei steps outside to empty the trash, he asks her to contact Ralph, to arrange transport, so he can slip away. He also asks her to make two other phone calls. He has two friends (guess who?), whose help he is going to need if he is going to get out of this alive.

Trei makes the calls, and Ralph collects Chuck and Trei, and spirits them away to a safehouse on the edge of town. Unfortunately, that night, Ralph’s car is spotted by informers, and a cadre of goons is sent to the location to silence Chuck for good. When they arrive, Ralph is knocked unconscious, and Trei is sexually assaulted, but Chuck, once again, manages to escape disappearing into the woods.

But the hoods don’t intend to let up. They know Chuck will show up sooner or later. But what the hoods don’t count on is the arrival of Jay (Jim Brown – The Dirty Dozen) and Cal (Fred Williamson – Black Caesar). Jay and Cal don’t know what’s goin’ down, but know their friend is missing and needs help. They intend to get to the bottom of the mystery in their own unique way. Fists and bullets fly. Cars explode. General mayhem ensues.

As I mentioned at the top, sometimes One Down, Two To Go gets a bad rap. I thought it was an absolute blast from first frame to last – but I did watch it under different circumstances to most, and I am sure that colours my perception. My perception may also be clouded by the fact that so many of the current breed of action heroes are aided and abetted by CGI and special effects. I find it enjoyable, almost refreshing, watching a film such as One Down, Two To Go, where I see old school heroes doing their thing without the aid of visual trickery.

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