Thursday, 30 July 2015

Convoy (1978)

















Following on from such movies as 'White Line Fever' and more notably 'Smokey and the Bandit', this film continues with the highly popular truckin' and CB radio craze that swept America at the time. Twas the ultra cool thing to do back then, the grizzly manly thing all men did to show how...errr...manly they were, and stick it to the man! Drive your big rig (18 wheeler) across the dusty barren highways of southern America, usually shirtless, with a sexy broad at your side and pissing off the local law enforcement with your erratic (dangerous) driving. Lets not forget about talking nonsense over the CB radio now, that was the highlight of the truckin' camaraderie.

Yeah OK I rip on the concept but its not that bad, its actually is a pretty sweet concept. I mean lets be honest here, really, these trucks are cool, they look cool, they sound cool and hauling cargo across the great wilderness of the USA must be an awesome adventure. The whole lifestyle of being free and easy, being your own boss, going at your own pace and being able to chat to virtually anyone over your CB radio does sound like fun to an outsider. So when you have Hollywood jumpin' on the bandwagon and introducing these butch, kickass characters that are a merry band of rebellious, amusing, insightful, dashing rogue types, I can fully understand the surge in popularity.

I mean look at the plot for this thing. The good guys (the truckers) are set up by crooked cop Sheriff Wallace (Ernest Borgnine) for speeding, they have to bribe him to get out of it. Later on at a diner the cop catches up with them and starts to abuse one of the truckers, the black guy, hey its the 70's. All hell breaks loose when Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson) tries to help out his fellow trucker, despite by being civil a nice big bar brawl breaks out, cops vs truckers. The truckers win of course and have to put the pedal to the metal to get to the next State before the cops can nab them. From here on the truckers tear up the highways getting to the State boarder and beyond. Along the way lots of other truckers and various vehicles join in all taking a stand against the corrupt police force led by Sheriff Wallace, hence the films title.



The plot is pretty basic lets be honest, not only that it could of virtually encouraged people (at the time) to rebel against the police trying to emulate the current craze (at the time). Not saying that would or did happen, but when you have a string of movies all with the same message it could happen here and there. Of course most everything we see here has been inspired by 'Smokey and the Bandit' which was a massive success the previous year (not fact but its obvious). The truckers are local southern boys trying to make a living hauling cargo, which is in the same vein as the Bandit, whilst the big ego of the law is trying to make their life hard, again in the same vein as Sheriff Buford T. Justice to a degree. The fact they cast Borgnine as Sheriff Wallace really makes this obvious if you ask me, he is practically the same character as Buford T. Justice, same look, build and relatively the same comedy aspect.

Not only this but most of the chase action is very familiar, the trucks go off-road to shake the cops and naturally most of the squad cars end up crashing big time. There are also smash-ups with other road users, large highway advertising boards, other squad cars, road blocks and at one point an entire small town gets destroyed by rampaging 18 wheelers! A pretty daft moment frankly, as if you could do that without trashing your truck and what about innocent people?! The carnage isn't exactly original but the fact its all carried out by big rigs does add much spice to the proceedings, not something you see everyday in a movie. Although to be fair there isn't much truck chaos in the movie, most of the time we see them merely in convoy set against some fantastic American backdrops.



What is kinda confusing is the tone of the movie. At first it almost comes off as a sort of indie road movie, a sort of cultural landmark for a generation, much like 'Easy Rider'. Then it does indeed go down the old 'Smokey and the Bandit' route with a reasonable amount of  banger racing, although not overly goofy. During the middle of the film it becomes much deeper and emotional when the cops bag the black character and beat him to try and lure in Rubber Duck. Plus there is all that political business with the Duck meeting the Governor of New Mexico because he is seen as a local folk hero and the Gov wants to ride that with a PR campaign. Then towards the finale things become quite dark as Wallace faces-off against Duck with the National Guard and a tank! Indeed the ending (and fate of Duck) seems completely out of place, followed by a rather lame twist which is the polar opposite to the dark finale you witness minutes prior.

All of this is of course littered with all the CB trucker jargon you can muster, its all here, stuff you've heard before and stuff you haven't. I understand the CB obsession was fresh back then, it enabled you to be cool and it was fun I'd imagine, but everyone could hear what you say, surely this would have many disadvantages in this specific scenario.



Yeah its a macho movie, Kris Kristofferson is the epitome of a macho man with his golden tan, gruff beard and gruff vest. There is the obligatory token black character, and this time, female character too! whilst all the other rednecks are your standard bearded, cowboy hat wearing tobacco chewers. Ducks sexy sidekick played by Ali MacGraw seems to have a certain haircut/style to try and fit in with the hip blaxploitation genre and appeal to all demographics, whilst being the epitome of a weak female character totally dependent on the strong male lead. Weird how she sells her Jaguar E-Type at the start to raise some cash, surely you'd get a shot load of cash for a Jag! Oh and her romance with Duck is so flippin' cheesy and cliched, but hey this is an old movie.

This is such a 70's flick it really is, so damn 70's, but director Peckinpah does really add a glossy sheen to it which elevates it above other seedy looking 70's flicks. You still have that horrible hippie-esque vibe going on in parts which I hate, but the vehicle porn on display is really good, really slick at times with a great array of now vintage trucks and other jalopies. The main truck used by Duck is the star of the show for the most part and it does look great as it belches out black fumes whilst it thunders along, true American muscle. Its a mixed bag with great visuals and truck porn, I think most will know if this is there cup of tea, niche genre really, solid but nothing special.

6.5/10