After Billy Jack in sentenced to four years in prison for the "involuntary manslaughter" of the first film, the Freedom School expands and flourishes under the guidance of Jean Roberts. The... See full summary »
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William Wellman Jr.
Billy Jack is a half-Indian/half-white ex-Green Beret who is being drawn more and more toward his Indian side. He hates violence, but can't get away from it in the white man's world. Pitting the good guys, the students of the peace-loving free-arts school in the desert vs. the conservative bad guys in the near-by town, the movie plays definitive late-60s themes/messages: anti-establishment, make love not war, the senseless slaughter of God's creatures, the rape of society (figuratively and literally), two-sided justice, racial segregation and prejudices. Written by
Nic Cage <email@example.com>
Contract disputes between Laughlin and various producers caused the film to change hands between three different film studios, and delaying its release for three years. In 1973, Laughlin filed a fifty-one million dollar lawsuit against Warner studios for "improperly publicizing" Billy Jack. See more »
In the barber shop, the hands of the barber on the customer's head don't match up with his reflected position in the barber shop mirrors. See more »
It is true that Tom Laughlin does not look like an Indian, half-breed or otherwise. It is true that some of the scenes, particularly the scenes improvised by the committee, are unnecessary (though extremely funny) and the film itself is too long. It is true that the martial arts scenes in this film are few and far between. However:
The film is not a martial arts film and it deals more with the spirit of being an Indian, a true American, than it is about the looks of one.
Often dismissed as a cheesy karate movie, BILLY JACK is in fact an excellent study of conflicting idealogies, of violence as a quick but by no means correct solution, and of the different varieties of love. Though it is much too long a film, the sheer enthusiasm and love for the children that Jean (Dolores Taylor) expresses gets the viewer involved on an emotional level. While we cannot justify Billy Jack's (Tom Laughlin) actions, we know he is doing it out of love for Jean. We feel the rage he feels towards Bernard, a character that is suprisingly deftly acted. At the start of the film, we sympathize with him; by the time he has raped Jean we, like Billy, want to rip him a couple of new orifices. His well-deserved death is quick and pathetic, like the shooting of the dog.
Billy Jack himself is an American icon, the true definition of a hero, presented in such a way that the audience questions their own ideas about heroism.
The characters are well-drawn, the cinematography breath-taking, the improvised scenes much funnier than anything to hit SNL in a long time. So why is it that this film, the most financially-successful independent film to EVER exist, is so often dismissed as nothing more than a bad karate movie? Because of bad marketing, for one thing; the other is the way it's often described: "A half-breed indian Vietnam Vet played by a white guy protects a 'hippie' school from bigotry." Much like the Freedom School that Billy seeks to protect, the film itself is marred by such bigotry and misconceptions.
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