In the 1977 film, Mr. Mean, Fred Williamson plays the title role.
He’s a former employee of the Cosa Nostra who now works as a sort of private investigator. He’s cool. He’s hip. He’s sexy. He’s Fred Williamson! But the best thing about him is that his name actually is Mr. Mean. Everyone in the film literally calls him “Mr. Mean.” He introduces himself as being “Mr. Mean.” The people who are closest to him occasionally leave out the “Mister” and just call him “Mean.”
The film begins with a woman approaching Fred Williamson on a basketball court and saying to him, “Hey, is your name Mr. Mean?”
Later, when he calls his office to check his messages, he tells his secretary, “This is Mr. Mean.”
When he goes to his favorite bar, he’s approached by two members of Ohio Players, the band behind Fire and Love Rollercoaster. They tell him that they are such big fans of him and his reputation that they’ve actually written a song about him. The song is called “Mr. Mean.” They proceed to play the song over the opening credits. For his part, Mr. Mean does not appear to be impressed. That said, I imagine the Ohio Players were probably happier to be playing for Mr. Mean and than for the Brady Bunch.
Mr. Mean is summoned to Italy by a mob boss who wants Mr. Mean to do one last job. He wants Mr. Mean to assassinate a rival gangster, Huberto (Lou Castel). Mr. Mean explains that he may be a fighter and lover but he’s not a killer. However, Mr. Mean then learns that Huberto has been running a scam charity, stealing money that people are donating to help fight hunger in Africa. Mr. Mean takes on the contract. However, Huberto knows that Mr. Mean is in Italy to take him out so Huberto hires an assassin named Rommell (Raimund Harmstorf) to take out Mr. Mean first.
Judging from the endless shots of Mr. Mean casually walking through Rome, it doesn’t appear that either man is in much of a hurry to get the job done. Mr. Mean even takes time to pursue a romance with the mysterious Rene (Crippy Yocard). What little action there is comes to a complete halt so the film can give us a lengthy scene of Mr. Mean and Rene walking along the beach. Eventually, it turns out that Rene has a secret of her own and, for a few minutes, it seems like Mr. Mean might become yet another Fred Williamson film to feature a sudden downbeat finale. But no worries! Mr. Mean may be mean but he’s also clever!
(Actually, Mr. Mean turns out to be a surprisingly nice guy so I’m not really sure how he got that nickname.)
The film’s plot is next to impossible to really summarize because the plot doesn’t make any sense. The story feels like it was made up on the spot, probably because it was. Reportedly, Fred Williamson shot this film while he was in Italy to make Inglorious Bastards. He would spend the week working on Bastards and then, on the weekend, he would borrow the film’s equipment and crew and secretly work on Mr. Mean. He wrote the script while filming. The result is a film that meanders without adding up to much. The main theme of Mr. Mean appears to be that Fred Williamson was Fred Williamson’s biggest fan.
Mr. Mean is one of Fred Williamson’s lesser films. Though he didn’t necessarily have a wide range as an actor, Fred Williamson had charisma and a lot of style and confidence. All of that is on display in Mr. Mean but the film itself is impossible to follow and ultimately just feels like an extended home movie. Mr. Mean just isn’t mean enough to be memorable.
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