In the midst of my own journey as I move north to face new challenges (and to move in with my fiance), I find the time in this busy futuristic lifestyle of packed boxes and neglected rest to sit and watch Fred Williamson’s 1976 Death Journey released by Code Red DVD. I adore Code Red; their fans get what they ask for as Code Red’s ears are surely open and ready to receive the intake of rare and outrageous selections. However, Death Journey marks my very first concern for the DVD label as I’m not sure what pinpoints to be very unique of this example of blaxploitation besides being very bland.
When two New York City lawyers fear their case against a crime lord will die with the rest of their murdered witnesses, they hire Jesse Crowder, a former cop whose mercenary tactics are undesirable but effective. His $50,000 mission is to escort Finley, a former account of the crime lord, across the country to testify, but at every turn, trouble lies and waits for Jesse and Finley.
Watching Death Journey was painful. I hate to admit that, but the truth must be told. Being exposed to various convoluted stories, my mind has become a complex web of complexities. This back-to-back sequel to No Way Back, also released in 1976, bares a simple-minded story and executed in a simple-minded way. Pointless exposition describing their every action boggles down the flow of the plot and the obviously bad choreographed fight scenes reveal the faux blows, the dimwitted edited and the placing of the shot directly on a downed villain to show that he has been knocked out by Crowder’s martial arts skills.
What gnaws at me the most is the fact that this crime lord’s minions had every chance to brutally slay Finley and never took the opportunity to do it. These henchmen were scared to commit homicide in public, yet don’t mind participating in shoot outs. “Let’s take Finley to the car and shoot him later” attitude had me anxiously desiring Finley’s head on a platter and the “lets only point a gun at Crowder for a minute until he turns around and kills us” was done in almost every action scene.
The bad thing about this is that I know Fred Williamson can act at least as tough guy. A year before Death Journey, Williamson co-starred in Take a Hard Ride, he played an undesirable army soldier in the original The Inglorious Bastards and was most recently a strong guy, vampire slaying trucker in From Dusk till Dawn. Was Blaxploitation such a height for Williamson that he couldn’t say no to producing and directing himself? Perhaps that was the appeal? I wouldn’t dare tell him it was bad idea for then I’d be on my back in pain after a bull rush from the former defensive back, but Death Journey takes a trip down to nowhere fast and doesn’t gain anything as it progresses. Nothing surprises me when writer Abel Jones doesn’t receive anymore work. Also, I think I’ve had my fill of slow motion karate scenes, Williamson sex scenes and Williamson’s shirtless ventures across the nation for the time being. One nice thing I can say is that the Code Red DVD has a most superb video transfer!