All or Nothing

What initially seems like a quirky comedy with Richard Pryor teaming up to form a worker’s union quickly turns the audience against the actor’s Leroy Jones character. Which Was Is Up? doesn’t seem able to answer its own question, falling apart due to uncomfortable – even unwatchable – “romance” scenes that no longer have comedy associated with them (if they ever did).

Which Way Is Up? acts like a bait-and-switch, at first a quirky comedy with Pryor in multiple roles (long before Eddie Murphy made it part of his screen act), playing like a labor union PSA for the working class. That’s not dissimilar to Car Wash, another Pryor endeavor, but it’s initially earnest and treats the poverty-wage working family with a heavy, brash touch. It’s delightfully goofy and purposeful.

Which Way Is Up? feels like sketch comedy, the plot never the driving force

Then Leroy Jones cheats on his wife. Then he impregnates another woman. Then he beats his first wife, rapes and abuses a preacher’s wife, only to lose everything. The goal of Which Way Is Up? is to show this white-owned company for the amoral entity it is, using Jones as a prop to avoid unionization, stuffing his pockets, and moving him up the ranks as his personal life deteriorates. The script lacks onus though, losing all credibility in the opening seconds as Pryor forces his wife into sex. Considering the time period, it’s a borderline scene, but the later cruelty isn’t. Worse, it’s all played for laughs.

Between the dueling stories – one the job, the other the five-way affair – neither ever gains a foothold. Which Way Is Up? feels like sketch comedy, the plot never the driving force. Pryor tries, but his boisterous father is the only stand-out in his three-character arsenal. A preacher introduced late into the film has next to no impact beyond a one-joke note – he’s a corrupt, hypocritical church leader.

If there’s a positive to take away from this messy effort, Which Way Is Up? does make a point about listening to family rather than bosses or money. They’ll guide you right, but in Jones’ case, he falls for the scam, and then he falls himself. Mocking abusive behavior, however, isn’t the way to sell that message.


While certainly not a recent master, Which Way Is Up? is close enough. There’s plentiful detail and definition to take in, and whatever the scan’s source resolution, it’s satisfying. Plus, it’s a natural scan, retaining the grain and encoding is better still. It’s refreshing to say that about a Mill Creek two-for-one disc.

Color reproduction adds splendid pop and depth to the saturation. Flesh tones appear pleasing, while the farm environment drenches the screen in greenery. Primaries, especially reds, shine.

Losing none of its natural luster, Which Way Is Up displays superb contrast. Backed by pure black levels, the depth maintains its energy. Print dust and damage keep up a consistent presence, another sign this isn’t recently done (or just quickly/cheaply if newer).


Sufficient DTS-HD mono grabs the ’70s disco score and presents it cleanly as possible. There’s a little range in terms of the music, but otherwise, Which Way Is Up? remains static. Treble flattens out and dialog sounds unmistakably from the era. At least it’s pure, without distortion, static, or other messiness.


Nothing, but Which Way Is Up? shares disc space with another Pryor offering, Bingo Long.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Which Way Is Up?
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Grossly dated and difficult to watch, Which Way Is Up loses its purpose early and never regains momentum.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 34 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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