Mean Johnny Barrows (1975)

Rating: D+

Dir: Fred Williamson
Star: Fred Williamson, Stuart Whitman, Anthony Caruso, Jenny Sherman

There’s something of First Blood here: Vietnam vet Johnny Barrows (Williamson) comes home to find society not exactly welcoming him with open arms. He initially resists the offers of mobster Mario Racconi (Whitman) to work for him, but after Racconi is gunned down and his associate Nancy (Sherman) apparently raped, Johnny goes on the warpath against the rival Da Vinci family. It’s an odd crossover between a Mafia film and blaxploitation, with Williamson’s the only significant black role. The inter-racial romance hinted at between Johnny and Nancy is definitely ahead of its time, but this angle is given so little time to grow, it seems badly forced when it actually is required to become significant to the plot.

Though that said, Nancy is involved in the film’s best moments – one plot twist we didn’t see coming, and a totally berserk ending, which must be seen to be believed. It’s one of those “WtF?” moments: the only logical explanation we could come up with, pretty much turns the entire film upside-down. This was Williamson’s directoral debut, and is far too sluggish, with excessive footage of the hero strolling around: funky soundtrack or not, how many scenes of Barrows not finding a job do we need? Roddy McDowell and Elliott Gould turn up in minor roles, the former doing an occasionally very wobbly job of suppressing his British accent. Despite occasionally interesting aspects (Williamson takes the two-handed approach to shooting, ten years before Woo – and with shotguns!), this is largely a snoozer.