Xenon Blaxplotation Classic Review: Disco Godfather

Disco Godfather

Rudy Ray Moore is the Disco Godfather aka Tucker Williams, a retired cop and semi-famous DJ. There’s only one thing that could bring Williams back to the force – his family being in danger – and luckily for us, they are. When his nephew Bucky has a bad reaction to a new street drug Angel Dust, Williams launches a crusade against the suppliers, throwing a spanner into the operations of gangster Sweetmeat.

The film ticks off just about every cliché you’d expect in a ‘maverick cop’ movie. Montages of rough street interrogations follow, with Williams going out of his way not to do things by the book. Moore handles it well, he is a cool and likeable hero, fighting for a just cause. It is a shame then in parts when more emotion is required of him – at the side of his nephew’s hospital bed, or remembering his deceased mother. Moore recalls the acting style of Richard Pryor: hilarious for the most part, but without the range to carry a film that isn’t a comedy.

This overly simplistic plot is interrupted now and then by a return to the Blueberry Hill Nightclub, for the Godfather to host another night of dancing. These scenes are enjoyable enough but entirely unnecessary. It is a testament to Moore to see just how much he is enjoying himself, whether beating up thugs or just throwing some shapes. Disregarding his other work, he deserves legend status for this character alone – the credits actually list the phrase “Put your weight on it!” as copyrighted to Rudy Ray Moore. 

Drug usage is surprisingly well handled and mildly terrifying; the user’s visions recalling the bad trip in Easy Rider, and Tina Turner’s Acid Queen cameo in Tommy. These sequences are quite effective but under thought: like something David Lynch thought conceived in about five minutes and then decided against.

Director J Robert Wagoner doesn’t seem willing to pay tribute to the films that Disco Godfather undeniably owes a debt to: revolutionary cop movies like Bullitt and Dirty Harry, or even Moore’s earlier blaxploitation movies. As such, the film is far more limited in imagination than Moore’s other work, and sacrifices impressively coordinated stunts in favour of atrocious fight choreography. By the time of Disco Godfather’s release in 1979, the blaxploitation genre was in full swing, and the film relies on that. But the cop movie genre had reached the end of that era’s stage of innovation, something that wasn’t to be repeated until the late eighties with Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. Wagoner’s film feels stuck in already outdated tropes, when the director could have looked to advance the genre.

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