Imagine being caught up in the following situation.
You’re the district attorney of Manhattan. You’ve got a chance to convict the city’s most powerful mob boss on some pretty serious charges. In fact, you’ve got three eye witnesses who are willing to testify against him. Sounds pretty good so far, right?
But wait a minute! One of your eyewitnesses just died. Oh well. You’ve still got two left and surely, the police can protect two… oh wait. Hold on. Okay, you know that second witness that you had? Well, he just got blown up or something. Now, you’ve only got one witness left. He’s a weaselly little mob accountant named Finley (Bernard Kirby). He’s really not a bad guy, once you get past all of the Hawaiian shirts and his obsession with candy. The only problem is that Finley is in California and you’re in New York. How are you going to get Finley across the country without him getting blown up by the mob?
Well, let’s see. You could ask the government for help but when was the last time government managed to do anything without screwing it up. You could reach out to the FBI or something like that. Maybe Finley could go into witness protection. I mean, it’s worked for a countless number of other mob associates…
But no. There’s no way Finley could survive in witness protection. He’d probably give himself away as soon as someone offered him a candy bar. Seriously, Finley is really obsessed with chocolate.
No, what you’re going to do is you’re going to call up Jesse Crowder (Fred Williamson). Crowder used to be a cop but now he’s a private eye. He’s a lot like Shaft, except he doesn’t ever get political. There’s really nothing that Jesse Crowder can’t do. He’s a marksman. He’s a fighter. He’s a lover. When we first see him, he’s doing kung fu in slow motion. If you really needed proof that Jesse Crowder is the ultimate badass, consider this: he smokes cigars. You read that correctly.
Now, you may be asking yourself: why would the Manhattan district attorney know a Los Angeles private eye? Because everyone knows Jesse Crowder, that’s why.
Anyway, Jesse agrees to take the case. He’ll escort Finley to New York, on the condition that he get paid $25,000 upon arrival. Of course, if he has to kill a lot of people, Jesse expects to be paid $50,000.
Needless to say, Jesse does end up having to kill a lot of people. It’s not really his fault, of course. They just keep popping up and getting in his way. Jesse tries all sorts of ways to get Finley to New York. He tries to drive him. He tries to take the train. No matter what he does, the mob shows up. Is it possible that the mob had someone inside the district attorney’s office?
Fred Williamson not only starred in 1976’s Death Journey but he directed it as well. Though it’s obvious that Williamson didn’t have much of a budget to work with, he still did a fairly good job with Death Journey. Certainly, his direction here feels stronger than it did in Mean Johnny Barrows. In its own undeniably dumb way, Death Journey‘s a fun action movie. Williamson may not have been a great actor but he had a strong screen presence and it’s impossible not to be amused by the fact that, no matter what he does or where he goes, somewhat inevitably pops out of the shadows and tries to kill him. With the exception of that opening kung fu sequence that goes on forever, Death Journey is a fast-paced action film. The film only last 74 minutes so, right when you start to wonder if Williamson’s ever going to show any personality beyond being a cocky badass, the movie ends.
If you’re a fan of low-budget 70s action films, you’ll probably enjoy Death Journey. If you don’t enjoy it, just make sure Jesse Crowder doesn’t find out. After all, he knows karate.