Pierce Mundy (Everett Silas) is having a bad life. His domineering mother (Jessie Holmes puts her own special fear of god into all comers) doesn’t hide her disappointment in her baby boy (30-years-old) whose elder brother is about to marry into upper-class respectability; his wiry dad whups him every time in their childish headlock matches; his nearing-the-pearly-gates Big Mamma and Big Papa require his commanded (no need to guess by whom) attention to ferry cooking pots and bathe his severely obese gramps; his future sister-in-law, Sonia (Gaye Shannon-Burnett), sets off Pierce’s rants about the world as he sees it: “The higher up you go the lower people you find,” he barks out at the first joint family dinner.
For Pierce, life is only endurable through time spent with his best friend, Soldier (Ronnie Bell), and—by extension—his parents, who come to view their son’s loyal chum as one of their own.
As Charles Burnett’s massively edited film (a full 37 minutes have been lopped off the 1983 original) opens, the buds are about to be reunited: Soldier is getting out of jail and has vowed it will be his last incarceration. “This time he ain’t going back,” says his hapless mother.
Following an emotional embrace, the two men resume their near constant companion status (save and except when Sailor goes on the hunt for one-night stands and violent encounters with mere acquaintances from the seedier side of L.A.), they wrestle (the intensity of which may raise more than an eyebrow), they run (in the first instance, away from a revolver about to be aimed their way by a defender-of-my-castle who finds the intertwined wriggling bodies in his front yard) and sing (but should keep their day jobs). Truly, “It’s you and me.”
And, while Solder is a babe magnet (hilariously bedding his latest in the Mundy family’s dry cleaning shop while Pierce stands watch then brings his bare-assed pal ice water in mid hump while Attila the Mom is at prayer meeting), Pierce settles for door-framed fantasy women and the none-too-subtle attentions of Angela (Angela Burnett)—jailbait of the first rank.
But then everything goes horribly wrong. Soldier checks out permanently, leaving his distraught pal with the moral dilemma of his miserable life. Which to attend: His distant brother’s wedding (where he’s best man) or his best friend’s funeral (where he’s one of the pall bearers)? Naturally, there’s a great divide in the venues.
The high drama is set, but doesn’t find its way to a knockout resolution. Burnett can’t find the right mix of action/back-story to convince us that the two amigos are inseparably bound-at-the-hip—especially since Pierce—entering his fourth decade—should be far less naïve than he appears.
His devotion to family also rings a little false given the frequent eruptions of his hot temper on the societal/class fronts. By now, this angry thirty-something man should either be on his own or dead. Too much compromise on character development qualifies this film as merely remarkable when, given the promise of previous work, it ought to be great. JWR