|Index||6 reviews in total|
This standard but reasonably diverting revenge/action drama is an early effort from writer/director Jonathan Demme, who would go on to Oscar greatness years later with "Silence Of The Lambs." The movie delivers all the ingredients one would expect from B-Movie producer Roger Corman PLUS a quietly effective performance from Peter Fonda as a family man who is pushed to the limits when a strip-mining tycoon tries to bully his way into taking over Fonda's father's stretch of farm land. It's nothing you probably haven't seen before, but it's solidly done and Fonda makes for a great low-key hero worth rooting for. *** stars
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It would be easy to dismiss Fighting Mad as exploitation fodder, but
there's something just a little too slick about the direction for such
a dismissive description to be apt. Jonathan Demme is the man behind
the camera, and although he is not a director to shy away from violence
(he did, after all, go on to make The Silence Of The Lambs) he does not
favour exploitative excesses. So, even though the plot resembles
various other vigilante movies - Straw Dogs, Death Wish and Billy Jack
especially - Fighting Mad at least makes some attempt to rationalise
its on-screen mayhem. There is a reasonably well-made revenge melodrama
lurking here, with character who make sense and a narrative that
follows an earnest, if simple, story to its logical conclusion.
Tom Hunter (Peter Fonda) returns, with his son from an unsuccessful marriage in tow, to the rural Arkansas farmland where most of his family still live. He soon discovers that things are not well at the old home - his father Jeff (John Doucette) and many of the neighbouring farmers are under threat from a mining corporation that wants to acquire their land. Having refused to accept the financial offer made by unscrupulous business bigwig Pierce Crabtree (Philip Carey), Jeff and his family find themselves at the mercy of hired goons who have instructions to intimidate them into submission. Tom is not a man of violence, so he tries to get the local police to deal with the problem through the proper channels. But the sheriff, Len Skerritt (Harry Northup), proves so ineffectual that Tom quickly realises that a tougher approach is needed. Following the death of his brother, sister-in-law and father, Tom finally snaps. Armed with a bow and arrow he single-handedly takes on the bad guys. Like the tagline says: when you push too far, even a peaceful man gets fighting mad!
Fonda spent much of the 70s churning out exploitation movies (Dirty Marry Crazy Larry, Open Season, Race With The Devil to name a few) and this is probably the best example of his output at that time. That's not to say this is a particularly good movie; just that it rises above the usual standard of pictures of this ilk. Demme's script builds believable relationships among the characters, especially Tom and his father, and manipulates us into despising the bad guys so that it feels right to cheer the hero on as he strikes back against his enemies in the film's violent climax. It is a lean and fast-paced story, not burdened with any needless extras. The actors give OK performances by genre standards - Fonda registers well as the bespectacled hero; Lynn Lowry is believable as his girlfriend; John Doucette has good moments as the fatally proud father; there's even a brief role for Scott Glenn as Tom's brother (years before he would find genuine stardom). Add to that the evocative score by Bruce Langhorne, and it's plain that Fighting Mad has enough positives to be worth a look. The real audience for these sort of movies is the Friday night beer-and-pizza brigade - on its simple blood-and-thunder level this film gives its target audience exactly what they're looking for.
Jonathan Demme's third directorial effort for producer Roger Corman is good, solid revenge fare - manipulative, to be sure, but the manipulation is done with skill, and the characters and story are respectably entertaining. It's a story of two opponents, both possessed of an incredible stubbornness and obsessiveness. The good guy is farmer Tom Hunter (Peter Fonda, good as always), usually an easygoing guy but who CAN be pushed too far. He's returned home to his dad Jeff (John Doucette) with his son Dylan (Gino Franco) in tow. The bad guy is arrogant fat cat Pierce Crabtree (Philip Carey), a combination land developer / strip miner who wants to get his greedy mitts on certain properties, including Jeff's. The fat cat employs various thugs who infuriate Tom with their evil methods; Tom's cheery brother Charlie (Scott Glenn) is just one of the people victimized along the way. Demme directs a top notch cast in this heartfelt film. Also appearing is the delectable Lynn Lowry as Tom's girlfriend Lorene. Lowry even does a brief nude scene that's highly appreciated. Noble Willingham plays the mildly crooked senator in league with Crabtree, and Ted Markland the angry local farmer Hal Fraser. One thing is for sure, and that's that Demme does a fine job of working on our emotions and getting us to despise the villains and hope they get what's coming to them. The film also stresses the effect that Tom's relentlessness is having on Lorene and Jeff and doesn't portray him in a completely one dimensional manner. And while Crabtree may be an unsubtle villain, not all the supporting characters are stereotypes. Willinghams' senator is really not such a bad guy, and things are kept ambiguous as to whether Sheriff Len Skerritt (Demme regular Harry Northup) is also in Crabtrees' pocket. By the time "Fighting Mad" has reached its climax, we're all primed and ready for the inevitable bloodbath. It's exciting at times, harrowing in the scene of the burning barn, and nicely realized in one major set piece halfway through as Tom commits a night time act of sabotage; it's done as a crane shot. Bruce Langhorne's music, beautiful throughout, is especially effective during this sequence. The cinematography by Michael Watkins likewise impresses. The acting is solid all the way down the line, with Glenn immensely likable in his brief time on screen. All in all, this is good entertainment of its type, and well worth checking out for fans of the cast and actors. Eight out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An evil corporation tries to pressure a bunch of Arkansas farmers and ranchers to sell their land so they can strip-mine it for coal. The fiercely proud and stubborn Hunter family refuse to give in. This leads to a bitter conflict that results in several casualties. Eventually the take-charge no-nonsense Tom Hunter (superbly played by Peter Fonda) exacts a harsh revenge on the villains with the help of his bow and arrow. Capably directed by Jonathan Demme (who also wrote the smart, compact script), with sharp, picturesque cinematography by Michael W. Watkins, a strong and deliciously vivid evocation of the rural south, a wealth of pleasingly quirky incidental details, a flavorsome country score by Bruce Langhorne, likable well-drawn characters, a constant quick pace, and plenty of exciting action, this bang-up little picture really hits the spot. The stellar cast helps matters a whole lot: the ever-lovely Lynn Lowry as Tom's concerned girlfriend Lorene, John Doucette as Tom's feisty, amiable dad Jeff, Philip Carey as slimy mining company tycoon Pierce Crabtree, Scott Glenn as Tom's rugged brother Charlie, Harry Northup as the ineffectual Sheriff Len Skerritt, and Noble Willingham as the crooked Senator Hingle. The lean and lanky Fonda makes for a totally credible and engaging action lead. The climax with Fonda singlehandedly taking on the bad guys is extremely tense and thrilling. A really solid and satisfying unsung sleeper.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just like the westerns of the olden days, we see unscrupulous land
developers desperately trying to squeeze out the owners of land in
Arkansas so that they can develop.
There is a tendency for a lot of violence to develop in these films, especially when the action takes place down south. This film falls right into line.
It would have been better to see the court proceedings instead of statements just being read out loud.
By the picture's end, the bodies are really starting to pile up in an area that seems to thrive on violence, especially when the people are pushed. That's not to say that the developers weren't exactly lovers of peace either.
Peter Fonda does an adequate job of the son who returns home with his young son and soon is caught up in this mayhem.
Henry Fonda should have been--appalled, that is--with his
counter-culture son playing the hillbilly-vigilante-avenger who goes
after the eee-vill mining company in Jonathan Demme's Fighting Mad.
Peter Fonda got off to an interesting start with Easy Rider, but it didn't take a lot of acting skill to cruise around on a Harley, stoned out one's gourd, so he wound up doing junk like this for producer Roger Corman.
I'm not going to give a synopsis of this thing, lest I start thinking about the time I wasted watching it. I just wanted to warn you 70s action fans out there to steer clear of Fighting Mad the next time Fox Movie Channel shows it. For the life of me, I can't understand why they chop up other movies for broadcast, but they slapped a TV-MA on this one because . . .
Hearing a couple "f-bombs" and seeing some boobage so helped advance the story. Don't get me wrong, boobs are just fine and a couple "fungoos" don't offend me. It's the fact that having the love interest of Peter Fonda scold him not to go out there and get hisself dead while airing out her mommy parts after sex isn't worth my time.
I must be getting old. In 1976, I would have elbowed my best friend to make sure he was grooving to the boobs on screen, the orangey blood being spilled, and the bad words that the three networks would hack out for broadcast.
Now, I look for things like originality, dialogue, depth and breadth of visuals, and intellectual stimulation. You know . . . the stuff you would never find in anything like Fighting Mad.
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