A Piece of the Action (film)

A Piece of the Action is a 1977 American crime comedy film directed by and starring Sidney Poitier and co-starring Bill Cosby. It was the third film pairing of Poitier and Cosby, following Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Let's Do It Again (1975). The films are considered a trilogy, even though the actors play characters with different names in each film. It was also Poitier's last acting role for more than a decade, as he focused his attentions on directing only.

A Piece of the Action
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Poitier
Produced byMelville Tucker
Screenplay byCharles Blackwell
Story byTimothy March
StarringSidney Poitier
Bill Cosby
James Earl Jones
Denise Nicholas
Hope Clarke
Tracy Reed
Titos Vandis
Music byCurtis Mayfield
CinematographyDonald M. Morgan
Edited byPembroke J. Herring
First Artists
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
October 7, 1977 (1977-10-07)
Running time
135 minutes
CountryUnited States


Dave Anderson (Cosby) and Manny Durrell (Poitier) are two high-class sneak thieves who have never been caught. Joshua Burke (Jones) is a retired detective who has enough evidence on the both of them to put them behind bars. Instead, he offers to maintain his silence if the crooks will go straight and do work at a youth center for delinquents. At first, the crooks are reluctant and unwilling (and so are the kids). As time goes by they gain the trust and admiration of the kids and they start to enjoy the job. All goes well until a past heist comes back to haunt them and they have to make up for it or else.



Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four and wrote, "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."[1] Lawrence Van Gelder of The New York Times wrote, "'A Piece of the Action' is firmly on the side of the angels. It is possible to criticize its lack of originality and its transparent slickness; but these are flaws that must be balanced against its evident craftsmanship, its entertainment and its social conscience."[2] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety noted, "The Warner Bros. release, easygoing and pleasant if longish at 134 minutes, looks good for the general market."[3] Gene Siskel gave the film two stars out of four and called it "a patronizing, simple-minded lecture on how young blacks can get jobs. You probably thought 'A Piece of the Action' was going to be a comedy. It is, but only as an afterthought."[4] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times praised the film as "uproarious yet poignant," with "generous, spirited direction" from Poitier.[5] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film "a winning light entertainment" with "an exceptionally effective screenplay, which achieves a spirited, tangy blend of conventional caper melodrama, conventional romantic comedy and elonquent propagandizing on behalf of measures intended to encourage self-reliance and self-respect in black juveniles."[6]


In 2002, it was announced that Will Smith and his production company, Overbrook Entertainment, had secured the rights to the trilogy for remakes to star Smith and to be distributed by Warner Bros.. Smith stated that he hoped to get Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence and other famous African-American stars to be in the films.[7][8]



  1. Ebert, Roger (October 7, 1977). "A Piece of the Action". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  2. Van Gelder, Lawrence (October 8, 1977). "'Piece of the Action' Is on Side of the Angels". The New York Times. 13.
  3. Murhpy, Arthur D. (October 5, 1977). "Film Reviews: A Piece Of The Action". Variety. 28.
  4. Siskel, Gene (October 11, 1977). "'Piece of Action' dragging its feet". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 7.
  5. Thomas, Kevin (October 7, 1977). "Poitier, Cosby Team Up Again". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 24.
  6. Arnold, Gary (October 14, 1977). "Bad Hombres, Good Works". The Washington Post. F1.
  7. Reid, Shaheem (March 28, 2002). "Will Smith Secures Rights To Sidney Poitier/ Bill Cosby Flicks". VH1. Archived from the original on 11 January 2010. Retrieved January 17, 2010.
  8. "Denzel Washington and Will Smith to Team Up in Uptown Saturday Night Remake?". Internet Movie Database. January 5, 2010. Retrieved January 17, 2010.
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