Universal Pictures’ foray into the Blaxploitation genre stars Roscoe Orman as the title character, a Manhattan pimp whose ambition to shoot to the top of the game is gradually tempered by the efforts of a social worker (the late Diana Sands) and her D.A. boyfriend (Thalmus Rasulala).
Directed by Gilbert Moses, from a screen story by Ron Culter and Joe Keyes Jr. and a screenplay by Cutler, Willie Dynamite is like a hooker with a heart of gold. It has good intentions (Richard Zanuck and David Brown were actually the producers, many, many years before winning Oscars for Driving Miss Daisy) but it is still a mangy, banged up affair, a trifle when compared to its contemporaries.
The movie starts off reasonably savvy with Willie D.’s seven ladies of leisure parting a sea of Shriners massed at a hotel, employing capitalist savvy to get business as a Shriner gives a speech on free market enterprise in the background.
But upon the entrance of Orman – who would later assay the role of Gordon on Sesame Street (man, is it weird seeing him strut around in a pimp costume!) – the movie is aimless. The filmmakers seem genuinely confused over whether Willie D. is the hero of the film, or a bad guy that Sands must take down. Heâ€™s never nasty enough to want to see fall a la Tony Montana, or evil enough to despise as a heavy. With a little more effort, the movie might have worked as a comedy.
Willie D. is repeatedly harassed by the cops (his Cadillac El Dorado is either towed or confiscated throughout the movie) to almost comic effect, but there are long stretches of dialogue where Sands tries to educate the prostitutes to the errors of their ways, like an afterschool special. There are some chases and shootouts about half way through the picture, but by then, I could have cared less what calamity befell Willie D.
The intention here seemed to be to chronicle the wayward ways of a street hustler and show why he chooses to give up the game and go straight, something Super Fly was much more adept at dealing with, without pages and pages of anti-pimp dialogue. There is much too much talking in the movie and very little atmosphere to vibe on. The soundtrack by J.J. Johnson is entirely forgettable.