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Uptown Saturday Night

Posted by martinteller on September 11, 2012

Steve Jackson (Sidney Poitier, also directing) is a steel worker and his buddy Wardell Franklin (Bill Cosby) is a cabbie.  They’re looking to have a little fun on a Saturday night, and they con their way into an illicit upscale gambling joint called Zenobia’s.  Right in the middle of a hot streak at the craps table, the place gets held up.  And when Steve learns that his wallet holds something precious, he and Wardell embark on a dangerous quest to get it back.

Poitier takes satirical aim at African-Americans who prey on the black community.  Richard Pryor’s nervous con man.  Hardened gangsters Harry Belafonte and Calvin Lockhart.  Two-faced Congressman Roscoe Lee Browne.  These are shifty characters who don’t care who their victims/suckers are, as long as they get over.  In contrast to Poitier and Cosby, who have their faults but are basically decent and likable guys at heart.

As an action/comedy buddy flick, it isn’t often laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s generally pretty entertaining.  Belafonte’s character is an amusing take on Brando in The Godfather.  And in one of the funniest moments, when Browne is told that constituents are arriving, he dons a dashiki and flips his Richard Nixon portrait over to reveal one of Malcolm X.  There are some lulls (Flip Wilson’s preacher character has a bit that goes on far too long with little payoff) but overall the film develops smoothly and some fun business going on.  Cosby and Poitier have a really lively chemistry together, they’re a pair of guys that are easy to watch and easy to root for.  I’m putting their other collaborations (Let’s Do It Again, A Piece of the Action) on my list.

Also, it’s always a nostalgia pleasure to see 1970’s Chicago.  I got a little charge when I spotted a Harold’s Chicken Shack.  Rating: Good (73)


2 Responses to “Uptown Saturday Night”

  1. JamDenTel said

    I got the Poitier-Cosby trilogy for my birthday one year. USN is good, but Let’s Do It Again is even better–how can you not like a film where a major character is named Bootney Farnsworth? A Piece of the Action is a little long and preachy, but it’s still solid.

    Very pleasantly surprised to see you tackle this one.

    • I tackled it because the Filmspotting Forum is doing a thing with 1974 movies (the same way it was 1957 movies a few months back). Looking forward — cautiously — to the other two. As a Curtis Mayfield fan, I’ve already heard the soundtracks for them.

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