A Piece of the Action (1977)

The third, and more serious, of the 1970’s Bill Cosby/Sidney Poitier films. This time, Cosby is a thief and Poitier a con artist who are blackmailed into helping a community center. They have three weeks to take a group of scared and angry kids and place them in jobs, and help them find the confidence to keep them. Meanwhile, they try to find the identity of their blackmailer.

Cosby and Poitier are first rate, as are the supporting cast. Denise Nicolas is back as the administrator of the community center and James Earl Jones joins in the fun, as well. The young actors are good and many would go on to careers in television and movies.

There are plenty of laughs, but this is a bit more serious. The kids are all from poor neighborhoods and are frightened about entering the job market. They also carry deep seated anger over the conditions of their lives. They use hostility and cynicism to protect themselves. Poitier spends his time trying to build confidence in the kids and show them how work with people to improve their lives, if only to feed their families, without help from the government or charities. Slowly. the kids respond to his tough message and begin to grow.

Cosby tries to leave behind his past as a ladies man and build a relationship with Nicholas. He also snoops around to find their blackmailer.

This is a film with a message, but it doesn’t hit you over the head with it. The comedy and drama work hand-in-hand. Definitely worth a look.