There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies that I hate and almost can’t stand to watch. Jim Kelly -I can’t recall his character’s name, and it hardly matters since he seemed to be playing himself, anyway- loses his battle with the villainous Han and dies. That’s not a huge spoiler if you haven’t happened to have seen Enter The Dragon, because his corpse is depicted on the poster, now the cover of the DVD. Dragon is pretty close to being a perfect movie for me outside of that misstep, falling into that same trope that befalls too many movies: the black guy dies.
We throw the word cool around pretty carelessly these days. It could mean anything or anybody we find even moderately acceptable. But the true meaning of cool as slang, from it’s genesis in Jazz many moons ago, was embodied in Jim Kelly. Jim could somehow look laid back even as he was kicking the holy ever loving living shit out of somebody. When you see his calling card, Black Belt Jones, it’s like you’ve watched a movie like Car Wash, only a bunch of dudes got wailed on. They just don’t make action movies that fun anymore.
I had the chance to see him a few months back at a comic con not far from here and foolishly didn’t take it. I would’ve loved to have told him all of the above and shook his hand. I didn’t take that opportunity and immediately started looking forward to my next shot. Now it’s a done deal. I learned my lesson.
Here’s to you, Jim Kelly. You were a real bad cat.