"Gentlemen, I want to be fair and relieve your minds. Neither of you knows what my business with the other one is. Therefore you are safe from each other. This is confidential. Trust me."
- Joshua Burke (James Earl Jones)
Well, this movie is more mainstream than the typical blaxploitation due to the stardom of Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier, "A Piece of the Action" was the third and last pairing of this sequel. The film's plot is quite weak but the charm is still there. Charming crooks Dave Anderson (Cosby) and Manny Durrell (Poitier) are high-class con men who have never run afoul of the law. Joshua Burke (James Earl Jones) is a retiring detective with enough evidence on the both of them to put them behind bars. He offers to maintain his silence if the crooks will go straight and do work at a youth center for delinquents. Thus our story line kicks off but goes nowhere fast. At first, the crooks are reluctant and unwilling (and so are the kids). As time goes by, trust and admiration is exchanged (as well as cold cash) and progress is made to get jobs for the kids.
The film walks a difficult path between comedy and social commentary but feels very comfortable to watch. Some of the dialogue is over done but others are truly heartwarming...I teared up twice on different occasions. Poitier trades on his performance as the school teacher who brings a London East End class to life in To Sir, With Love. Cosby's performance leans more toward his films that bombed, with mostly unrelated mugging and schtick making up his performance, that hopefully is improvised. Denise Nicholas as Lila French and Tracy Reed as Manny's girlfriend Nikki portray there roles quite well. A very young Sheryl Lee Ralph appears as one of the "delinquents," Barbara, and has a very dynamic scene in which she demands more respect from the instructors.
Close to the middle of this film do look for Poitier's older brother Cyril as the janitor of the youth center, Mr. Theodore, and soon-to-be star of television's What's Happening - The Complete First Season!!, as Raj, Earnest Thomas. The charm of the actors is really the best part of A Piece of the Action, and it shines despite the poor quality of the script. Another positive aspect of the film is the potent score by Superfly composer Curtis Mayfield, which also features singer Mavis Staples on some songs. It is good, clean, wholesome comedy. If you're from this era the memories will hit you strongly from the clothing, music; even to the "language."