Welcome to the town of Buchanan!
It’s a small Southern town, popularly known as Bucktown. It’s a town where you can literally get anything, as long as you know who to pay off. Upon arriving, don’t be surprised if a little kid approaches you and asks you what you’re looking for. He can get it for you. That kid had connections!
The population of Buchanan is almost entirely African-American but all of the cops are white. Under the leadership of the redneck police chief (Art Lund), the cops have turned Buchanan into their own private kingdom. If you want to do anything in Buchanan, you have to be ready to pay the cops for protection. Refuse and you’ll get arrested. Continue to refuse and you’ll probably end up getting shot.
Obviously, someone needs to clean up Buchanan? But who!?
How about Duke Johnson (Fred Williamson)? Duke’s brother owned the hottest nightclub in Bucktown, Club Alabama. Or, at least he did until he announced he wasn’t going to pay anymore protection and he ended up getting gunned down by the cops. When Duke arrives in town, he thinks that he’s just going to stay long enough to attend the funeral and sell his brother’s bar. However, when Duke find out that he has to wait 60 days until he can sell the bar, he decides to stick around. Not only does he move in with his brother’s former lover, Aretha (Pam Grier), but also reopens the Club Alabama.
Soon, the cops are coming around and demanding their share. However, they quickly discover that no one tells Duke Johnson what to do. Like all good action heroes, Duke has friends all over the country. He places a call to Roy (Thalmus Rasulala) and soon, Roy, TJ (Tony King), and Hambone (Carl Weathers) show up in Bucktown. They quickly wipe out the corrupt police force. The local citizens are so happy that they make Roy the new police chief and his men the new police force.
Unfortunately, that turns out to be a mistake. Apparently, giving some totally random dude complete and total authority to enforce the law in whatever he sees fit isn’t always the best way to handle things. Roy and his men quickly become just as corrupt as the old redneck policemen. The only thing protecting Duke is his friendship with Roy but even that is endangered when T.J. decides that he wants Aretha for himself. T.J. decides to turn Roy and Duke against each other. It all eventually leads to an epic fist fight, with the winner earning the right to remain in Bucktown…
(Of course, you may be wondering why anyone would want to remain in Bucktown as the place is kind of a dump, regardless of who’s in charge.)
Released in 1975, Bucktown is a pretty basic action film but I liked it because it appealed to all of my anti-authoritarian impulses. There have been so many movies about what it takes to clean up a town but there haven’t been many made about what actually happens after all of the corrupt cops and greedy businessmen have been kicked out. Thalmus Rusulala was great as the charismatic but dangerous Roy and Tony King, a favorite of Italian exploitation fans everywhere, was an effective villain. Pam Grier doesn’t get to do much but she does the best with what she’s provided. Of course, the entire film is dominated by Fred Williamson, who may not have been a great actor but who had an undeniable screen presence. Williamson struts through the film like the hero of stylish Spaghetti western.
Bucktown is an entertaining 70s action film. Though it doesn’t deeply explore any of the issues that it raises, it still deserves some credit for raising them. If nothing else, it’s a film that shows why Fred Williamson retains a cult following to this day.