Made in 1978 and released to video in 1994, THE TATTOO CONNECTION is an exercise in late '70s martial arts nostalgia--the cinematic equivalent of discovering a lost episode of TV's "Kung Fu."
Dung How (Chen Sing) boxes to his own chivalric code even as he pledges fealty to his boss Mr. Loo, undercutting his employer's crueler practices to conform with his personal standards. (For example, a gambler who tried to welch on his debt and was sentenced to death by Mr. Loo is merely
tortured and branded by Dung How.) When a jewelry company loses the precious North Pole Star diamond during a robbery ambush, its executives lose faith in the Hong Kong police, who can't nab the bad guys that put their courier in the hospital. The company hires Lucas (Jim Kelly), an
African-American soldier of fortune with CIA ties, to find the gem. Meanwhile, Mr. Loo offers to sell the North Pole Star diamond to various big spenders, and hires an elderly expert to cut the diamond in record time. Cowardly flunky Amin blabs about where the stolen merchandise is hidden and is
killed for snitching. But a tattoo on Amin's corpse helps Lucas narrow his suspect list to the Loo operation. Further complicating matters, Mr Loo's favorite lounge singer, Nana, dreams of leaving the criminal life with Dung How.
A hit on Lucas fails--he's rescued by the gambler whose life Dung How saved--and the gang retaliates by drowning the meddler. The hospitalized courier, who's really an accomplice stupid enough to try to renegotiate his cut after the robbery has been committed, is tossed off Loo's boat for
presumptuousness. Loo then orders Nana to drug Lucas with a super-sex stimulant, but the sneaky mercenary switches cocktails. At the mob's floating headquarters, Lucas beats up a slew of tattooed gang members before being captured. Dung How realizes Loo will never grant him and Nana walking papers
from the mob, and decides to switch allegiances; with the help of a ship's cook, Lucas battles Loo and tosses him overboard.
Despite a few virtuoso displays of martial artistry and the nostalgia value of seeing "blaxploitation" icon Jim Kelly strut his stuff, THE TATTOO CONNECTION has only limited appeal. Perhaps if the material had been played for laughs the film might have achieved some bad-movie verve, but the only
laughs here are unintentional, provoked by technical limitations, primitive dubbing, fluorescent-light photography, and a chintzy disco soundtrack. Serious blaxploitation buffs will want to take a look, but others should stay away. (Graphic violence, adult situations, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1978
- Rating: NR
- Review: Made in 1978 and released to video in 1994, THE TATTOO CONNECTION is an exercise in late '70s martial arts nostalgia--the cinematic equivalent of discovering a lost episode of TV's "Kung Fu." Dung How (Chen Sing) boxes to his own chivalric code even as… (more)