Monday, September 27, 2010

Billy Crap: The Born Losers

Who is Tom Laughlin?  To most people, the name means nothing.  However, this man is known by another name- Billy Jack.  Yes, Laughlin starred in and had major input into four films with the character- not counting the fifth one that remains uncompleted since 1985.  The character was basically his way to speak about the things that bothered him throughout the 1960s-1970s.  Interestingly enough, he wanted to do it a lot sooner.  Supposedly, Laughlin tried for nearly 20 years to get Billy Jack made.  As a compromise, they made a film featuring Billy Jack facing off against a very popular threat from the day: bikers.  When you see the rest of the films in the series, you'll realize how out of place this film really is.  Is it still preachy and ridiculous?  Yes.  Is it good though?  Get out your bikini and bonnet combo for my review of...
The film begins with a bunch of B-Roll of bikers driving around.  I'm sorry- it's the film's actual footage.  It is just so cheap and cliche that it seems like it.  The gang known as the Born Losers drive around the town and, well, be jerks.  When one man bumps their bike, they pick a fight with him and layeth the smacketh down!  He flees to a diner to call 911, but is sent away.  The diner inside- Billy Jack- lets him back in before the gang returns.  He intercedes by going around back with his rifle, but gets arrested.  That's Billy Jack- solving all of his problems with a gun!  He gets forced to either go to jail or pay a $1,000 fine.  The commentary comes in when Jack learns that the bikers were only given a $350 fine.  That's so insightful...about something.  Jack has a problem raising the money, a plot thread that is completely-forgotten about by the final two-thirds of the film.  In a separate plot, a woman with a pixie cut arrives in town, upset by her father not coming to see her.  We also meet some young women who have 'a thing' for bikers.  Don't worry- that will change.  Eventually, the Losers (not be confused with the awesome film) hook up with the girls and run across the pixie cut girl...
So yeah, they all meet a rough fate.  Want to guess what happens to a bunch of women in a room full of bikers?  This upsets Billy Jack so much that not even aware of it until it gets on the news.  The Losers get all Mission: Impossible on the town with schemes to get at the women to keep them from testifying.  This plan works at first, with them nearly catching the pixie-haired girl.  Unfortunately for them, they run into Billy Jack, who proceeds to use his power to choppily-edit the film and beat them up.  In a plot thread we'd see later, Jack is now the woman's protector.  How about the other girls?  In a weird scene, one of them is berated by their mother before she leaves.  Afterwards, she decides to randomly do a striptease for...his stuffed animals when she is surprised by the Losers (again- not the great film).  Why did she do it?  Um, I don't know.  When the police won't say that they can 'protect her forever,' the mother throws a hissy fit.  Seriously, her performance is so over the top that she has to be related to Laughlin!  With things going their way, the Losers put their focus on the pixie-cut girl.  Get to work, Billy!
With the gang and Jack both hanging around the area, tensions are sure to rise.  Never mind that they outnumber him or the fact that Jack refuses to fight them most of the time.  At one point, he fights one of the gang members in a fight that should be great...but sucks.  The guy runs up at Billy and gets punched in his exposed stomach.  He gets up...and does it again.  Jack and the girl leave, but eventually agree to meet up with them, for fear that the violence will escalate to others.  It still does, making their actions- entirely pointless!  The Losers (okay- the joke is dead) have captured one of the other girls who might testify.  How? They do the trick they tried earlier to get the pixie-haired girl, only with shooting instead of stealing a car.  Jack makes a big to-do about standing up to them...and promptly gets clubbed in the back of the head.  Apparently Indians lack peripheral vision- look it up!  The pixie-haired girl agrees to let herself be raped in return for Jack, the girl and her useless father being let go.  A bit later, Jack wakes up from his cracked skull and tricks the men, allowing himself to get inside.  He holds them at gun point, finally killing off the gang's leader.  The new leader is very compliant and flees, allowing them to be arrested.  One self-serving bit of and ending later and this film is over.
This film sucks- especially when it shouldn't!  I mean, a tough, take-no-prisoners guy takes on a gang of rule-breaking, rapist bikers.  That's a sure-fire classic!  Unfortunately, the film is horribly-paced, alternating awkwardly from wordy dialog to sudden death.  Who can manage to ruin a premise so simple?  Oh right, Tom Laughlin.  Clearly his heart was not in this, as his acting level barely goes above 'mild bemusement.'  I get the impression that this movie could have been about Godzilla fighting Jesus and he'd be 'eh, whatever.'  This is what happens you make a film just because it will be a hit.  There's no soul here!  The characters do random things, the plot sort of saunters along and it takes forever to resolve anything.  It's a good thing that people forget about this movie, because it's pretty easy to do.  The few 'Billy Jack' moments of awesomeness come too little too late.  Seriously, my father's favorite moment of the film (Jack shooting the leader) occurs in the last ten minutes.  Hell, he doesn't have a silly-looking Akido fight of note here.  The film is notable for introducing the character, but not much else.
Up next, we get to see the film that Laughlin waited nearly 20 years to make.  Will the titular film be a classic or a piece of shit?  Stay tuned...

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