Cast: Ron O’Neal, Sheila Frazier, Julius Harris, Charles McGregor
SUMMARY: Youngblood Priest (Ron O’Neal) is a successful cocaine dealer in New York City. Priest and his partner Eddie make a lot of money and live very comfortable lifestyles, but Priest is growing weary of the business, and knows that he will probably die early if he doesn’t get out. However, he also knows that with his criminal record, the chances of getting a good job are very slim, and he is unwilling to give up the lifestyle he is accustomed to. He and Eddie have saved $300,000, and Priest wants to use this money to buy 30 kilos of coke, which they will deal over the next four months. He estimates that this will bring in $1,000,000 ($500,000 each), which will allow him to live a comfortable life with his girlfriend Georgia (Sheila Frazier) until he figures out what to do for a job. Eddie does not share Priest’s desire to leave the cocaine business, but agrees to help him move the drugs. Priest intends to purchase the 30 kilos from Scatter (Julius Harris), an older man who gave Priest his start in the business. Unfortunately, Scatter has already essentially left the business, and doesn’t have access to that much cocaine (nor does he want to be involved). After pleadings from Priest, Scatter agrees to help one last time, and find a way to get 30 kilos.
Meanwhile, one of Priest’s low-level associates, Fat Freddie (Charles McGregor), is arrested by the police. They know that he is only a pawn, and want to know the identity of his boss. Freddie refuses to give them the information, so the police beat him up until he cracks. Unbeknownst to Freddie, these police are actually in on the drug trade — in fact, they are Scatter’s suppliers. They arrange a distribution deal with Priest that comes with access to unlimited amounts of coke and police protection. Eddie is thrilled, since this will greatly expand their operation, but Priest still insists on getting out after selling 30 kilos. One evening Priest is visiting his white mistress (not the girlfriend) when Scatter suddenly bursts in, saying that the suppliers are after him. They are enraged that he wants to quit, and are now trying to kill him. Scatter reveals that Deputy Commissioner Reardon is in charge of the whole operation, and gives Priest a packet of information that proves Reardon’s involvement. Scatter is desperate to get away, so Priest agrees to give him some money later that night. Just as Scatter leaves the apartment, the police capture him and give him an overdose that kills him, leaving the body in Priest’s car. This pushes Priest over the edge, and after visiting with two mystery men he demands his half of the money from Eddie. Eddie gives him the money, but then calls the police to tell them that Priest has the money. Priest is carrying the money in a briefcase, which he switches for a fake one brought in by Georgia. Priest is quickly nabbed by the police, who take him to the waterfront for a meeting with Reardon. Reardon tells Priest that he will never be able to leave the business; when Priest defies this, several of the policemen attack. Priest fights them off, then reveals that he knows who Reardon is — and so do the two hitmen he hired (the mystery men). These two men were paid and ordered to kill Reardon and his family if any harm ever came to Priest. With nothing holding him there any longer, Priest drives off to join Georgia.
MY TAKE: This film is odd, because apparently its soundtrack actually grossed more than the movie. The soundtrack was written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, who also performed the songs. Mayfield also appears several times in the movie as a singer at a club. It does have some great funk music, but for me that didn’t overshadow the movie, which was pretty lame. It’s supposed to be an action movie, but there were limited action scenes, and the in-between parts were pretty stale. I don’t know anything about what the cocaine trade was like in the 1970s, but it seems to me that Priest would have had more issues to deal with, like other competitors and underlings trying to take over or go rogue. Instead, we mainly see Priest sauntering around in a variety of VERY 70s-era clothing. The plot was really predictable — was there any doubt that Priest was going to get into some sort of altercation before he managed to get out of the business? In my opinion, the only parts with any semblance of tension were the scenes where Scatter tried to flee, and the final scene when Priest revealed that he had hired hitmen. Otherwise it was a really boring movie.
RATING: Decent music, poor movie.