Thursday, September 30, 2010

Billy Crap: Billy Jack Goes to Washington

It's about time we wrap this up, don't you think?  After compromising to make The Born Losers, finally getting his opus Billy Jack made and producing a big hit in The Trial of Billy Jack, power clearly went to Tom Laughlin's head.  Yes, this is in contrast to making a three-hour film in which he basically stands on a soapbox and shouts at Richard Nixon.  Why do I say that this one is full of hubris?  Well, for starters, the film is basically a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  You waited 20 years to get your own script made and decided to close out your series with a shoddily-made remake?  Wow.  Secondly, Tom, his wife Dolores Taylor and his daughter (in a minor role) get above-the-title billing!  So what resulted from all of this?  The movie was not released in most theaters.  That's right.  After making a movie that- despite being terrible- played nationwide and grossed $31 million dollars (not adjusted for inflation).  That's just behind films like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.  This also spells the end of Laughlin's major film career, unless he ever gets that new Billy Jack film made.  Let's just get to it, huh?  Get out your domino-style collection of mirrors for my review of...
Before the titles roll, we get a long narration explaining that this film is all about the building of a nuclear power plant.  The appropriations bill was hidden in another bill and the meetings kept secret.  That's so fictitious pretty much happened in the early days of George W. Bush's presidency with his Energy Task Force.  After a cameo by reporter Joe Klein as, well, a reporter, one of the Senators behind the Bill dies, leading to the appointment of a new guy.  They pick Billy Jack, figuring that his appointment will do their party good in the long run and that he will never win a real election.  After some pointless bits in the desert (just to keep the flavor, I guess), he arrives and plays ball...for a while.  Eventually, he proposes his own bill to build a school (how many Indian Schools do we need?) that happens to be on the same land.  In a silly sub-plot, a super-secret memo about the plant bill was taken by an aid when the first Senator died, he tries to sell it and gets killed.  It amounts to nothing in the long run, since the man's girlfriend returns in time for the finale anyhow.  Using his time-manipulation powers, Jack talks to every Senator and gets their voting records in a week!  Even back then there were over 500 of them!  I'd say that this is silly, but I've already seen Billy Jack be appointed to the Senate.
Oh yeah, right around the hour mark, they throw in a fight scene.  I hope you like it, because it's all you get!  Tom's wife gets to get in on the action.  Well, it's actually an obvious stunt double, but it's the thought that counts.  Next time, get a lady with the right hair color, Tom!
After that nonsense, Jack tries to talk about the bill's issues on the Senate floor before his mentor/buddy turns on him.  The bad guys fake evidence of a crime committed by Jack and try to get him kicked out of the Senate.  Thankfully, the gallery is there to explain the events to us.  Jack makes one last stand, taking the Senate floor and controlling by way of constantly-objecting.  My hero!  The press catch wind of this and the other leads push to help him.  He speaks on the floor for some undisclosed amount of time before the Senators who previously walked out on him return with a bunch of letters from Americans.  When confronted with this 'evidence' about how people don't agree with him, Jack suddenly gets his 600th wind and gives one more speech before passing out.  The Senators finally vote on whether to kick him out, but that stops when his former best friend/mentor has a sudden Face Turn and says 'no.'  So, despite being convicted by the Senate and only one person saying 'no,' Jack has now won?  How does, who the hell cares?!?
This movie sucks- not that I need to tell you that.  This movie is essentially a remake of a classic Frank Capra film.  Yeah, that's the problem.  That movie is great, while this movie is terrible.  Jimmy Stewart was a great actor, while Laughlin was basically bi-polar here.  Never mind that he only seems to possess two outfits in this movie- his denim outfit and a brown suit.  Given how he was there for about three months, wouldn't those clothes stink by now?  Speaking of stinking, this movie did terrible in its limited release.  Not only that, but it was a money pit.  This almost-all-talk film cost $7 million to make.  A good chunk of this came from Laughlin spending $750,000 to make the Senate Floor set, since the real people said 'no.'  Not surprisingly, since this movie paints them in a terrible light.  The question is this: is this one of the worst movies ever made?  For me, no.  Don't get me wrong- it's utter shit.  However, I found The Trial of Billy Jack to be far worse.  Not only that, but it's so cheesy and forgettable that it doesn't rank up there with films like Blood Freak or Wild Zero.  I'll move on, which is just what America did after this film.  If you ever make that new Billy Jack film, Tom, you can count me out!
Next up, we begin October with a pair of obscure horror films with a curious gimmick.  I'll give you a hint- it involves bush.  Stay tuned...

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