Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Billy Crap: Billy Jack

Alright, let's not waste any time here.  After over a decade, Tom Laughlin got a drive-in hit with The Born Losers.  That gave him the pull he needed to get his magnum opus made.  This movie is famous for its preachy nature and silly plot.  There's no question about that.  The real question is whether or not this film holds up after all these years.  Can it live up to the hype?  Get out your scoop full of flour for my review of...
The film begins with a sappy song played over footage of the desert.  Is this a film or a Ford Truck commercial?  After some long credits (in the beginning, oddly enough), we see a group of people chasing wild horses in a truck.  They try to get them to a ranch, but end up being confronted by Billy Jack.  He stands his ground, since the horses are on Indian land and the ranchers are not Indians, and forces them to leave.  Yet again, Jack solves all of his problems with a gun.  The narrative changes to the nearby town's sheriff and his daughter, a slutty girl with an attitude.  When she says that she's pregnant and gives him 'sass,' he beats her up.  She ends up in the hospital and, for no good reason, ends up in Billy Jack's care.  See what I meant in the last review about this plot thread showing up again?  The plot decides to go on a major side road and focuses on the school that is run on the Indian Reservation.  This is some serious hippie shit and takes up a good twenty minutes or so.  All you need to know is that the girl finds a new home there and her father has no idea where she is.  That's pretty much it.
A group of students go into town, leading to the film's most famous segment.  When one of them rejects the advances of an Eric Bana-looking guy (also the Deputy's son), he harasses the group in an ice cream parlor (this was made in the 1970s?) when the owner refuses to serve the Indian.  After a short fight, Billy Jack shows up and beats up the teenagers.  I should note that Laughlin was 40 when he shot this scene.  He goes outside and gets in a fight with a bunch of townspeople.  If you've seen Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, this will look familiar.  By the way, if you've seen Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, you're a freak like me.  Despite showing off his Hapkido skills, Jack is beaten up and saved by the one non-corrupt lawman in the town.  Following that, Jack disappears to take part in some sort of Indian ceremony.  They explain it- ad nauseum, I might add- but I'll leave the explanation out of here.  We see the kid from the earlier town scene staring down Billy Jack with a sniper rifle, but he does nothing.  So the point of that was what exactly?  Jack eventually get some retribution by trapping the kid by a lake and forcing him to drive his dad's car into the water.  That's going to solve all your problems for sure!
Unfortunately, I was wrong.  The school has issues with a local judge, leading to a really-extended court scene that goes nowhere.  When the sheriff learns that his daughter is at the school and being romanced by an Indian, he gets a little pissed.  The kid gets revenge on the school by catching the school's caretaker out swimming and raping her.  By the way, she's played by Laughlin's wife.  That's only slightly less creepy than Argento's work in The Stendhaal Syndrome.  All hell breaks loose from hereon out.  The kid eventually ends up killing the Indian boy, who, in turn, gets shot by Billy Jack.  Somewhere during all of this, the daughter falls off of a horse and miscarriages.  This is odd, since the plot requires her to be out trick-riding while pregnant!  You couldn't have had a villain cause this, Tom?  A shoot-out occurs at the school, leading to the death of the Sheriff.  Way to make that a random incident and seem unimportant, guys!  Jack and the girl hole out for a while, refusing to surrender.  Eventually, Jack gives the people a list of demands- which they agree to- and gives himself up.  Considering his body count, that was surprisingly-easy.  One pretentious exit ceremony- complete with a silly helicopter shot- and this movie is over.
This movie sucks, but for all the reasons that it should.  Unlike The Born Losers, there is no pretense of trying to make this fit in to a movie norm.  No, this movie is all about the message.  That message: hippies are smarter than everyone & the law is just out to get you.  Seriously, this is movie is how every Republican sees Democrats.  There's no middle ground here.  You're either a corrupt lawman or you're a hippie that understands your connection to nature.  The school scenes are horrendously-dated and represent a really idealized view of society.  There were maybe ten people that were actually like this (counting Laughlin and his wife) at the time!  On top of that, the film is self-indulgent to the point of excess.  I didn't even mention the three songs sung by a little girl, who just so happens to be Tom's daughter.  I'm sorry, but this movie is a painful experience.  It's what happens when people make 'their vision' with no oversight from a third party.  Someone like that will tell you 'no, this is silly' or 'you could really cut that.'  Like a good number of Tim Burton films, that guy just wasn't there.  In spite of all the negatives, the film is an interesting snapshot of how people thought in this era.  That's something- right?
Up next, one of the most infamous films ever comes up.  Can you stand nearly three hours of Billy Jack posturing and preaching?  Stay tuned...

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