We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
“A Piece Of the Action," which stars Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby as successful gangsters blackmailed into helping a ghetto job-training program, is well intentioned but lead-footed. It has its heart in the right place, I suppose, but its key situations are so unbelievable and its dialog so awkward that nothing helps.
Maybe Poitier, who directed as well as starred, suspected that he wasn't involved in one of his better projects. He gives us a couple of well-handled caper scenes at the beginning of the film, to keep us momentarily entertained, and the gimmick in one of them (how to escape from an upper floor window with the loot) is nicely handled. But this isn't a caper movie; it's an anthology of optimistically simplistic racial attitudes, surrounded by a dumb story.
The caper scenes simply set up the premise -- which is that Poitier and Cosby, having made a lot of money in illegal heists, should now redirect their skills toward helping the black community. The person who arrives at this conclusion is a retired black detective (James Earl Jones) who blackmails them into lending their skills to the job-training center.
The center itself, as depicted in the film, is run with such ineptness that it's a wonder the people in charge ever got their jobs. When total anarchy doesn't reign in the classrooms, the lessons all seem to concentrate on how to get through the job interview itself - if you can clear that, the movie seems to be saying, you don't actually need such little details as marketable job skills.