BLUE COLLAR - ALLEN, CENTER, LANDOVER MALL 4, LINCOLN 1 AND LOEW'S EMBASSY. In the attempt to be a big b-a-a-d revolutionary tract, "Blue Collar" makes a political mishmash that trivializes the complaints of the factory worker. Richard Pryor, who said he chooses roles "from a black point of view," should be more careful.
Because of his good acting, and that of Yaphet Kotto, because Paul and Leon Schrader wrote those parts well, and perhaps also because every other word is f . . . , a two-hour movie - this film made be taken for authentic workingman's blues. A blue-paint-spraying system is used as a murder weapon: one can literally die of the blues.
But for every laborer who walks away thinking that's the way it is, there will be a white-collar worker who concludes that they had it coming.%T"Blue Collar" is about three Detroit auto workers, two black and one white. (The Oreo cookie joke figures prominently in the script.) They have made a first political step of discovering that the union is as much a part of the power establishment as management. But grumble as they might about the plight of The worker, they are incapable of making a second political step - instead, they decide to rob the union's safe. Even when they stumble on evidence of corruption, they are unable to use it for anything but petty crime. They have overlooked the possibilities of taking power themselves, either by organizing other workers, or by their illegally obtained advantage.
Why? Listen to their complaints.
Sure, says the hero, they all have mortgaged houses and color television sets and cars and motorcycles and all that s . . ., but it's all nothing but s . . . He is in serious debt now - but only because he faked his income taxes for years and now has to pay penalties. Another worker tears at our hearts because his daughter feels she can't get into a baton-twirling squad unless she has thousands of dollars of cosmetic orthodontia. While complaining about family expenses, the men casually spend money on cocaine and prostiture parties (not seen as conflicting with their dedication as husbands and fathers - naturally if their wives sneaked out for dope and sex, they'd think it okay because they are good wives and mothers during the day.
Any really downtrodden worker would laugh himself sick. These may be hard-working, underpaid people with legimate complaints. But the problems have trivialized by their failure to understand their own situation.
The summation is delivered twice: once as a warning and again, at the film's end, when black and white former become enemies: "Everything they do, the way they pit the lifers against the new boys, the old against the young, the black against the white, is meant to keep us in our place."
As long as these characters think in terms of an undefined but all-powerful "they" - a "they" who inverted racism, which never would otherwise have entered the workers' mind - they are not 120;even going to try to help themselves out of that place.