I'll hand it to Max Boulois: He knows how to make a movie about himself. This is the 2nd of his movies that I managed to glom onto, and from what I can gather from them he is (or was) France's answer to Mr. T before Mr. T even became a name. Big lummox of a man who actually had an intelligent, creative side to him that he harvested after some sort of sports career. I'd like to learn more about him.
Here he directs himself in a somewhat trashy but nonetheless engaging movie about a (get this) Vietnam veteran NFL star who falls on hard times, runs up a gambling debt, and is recruited by a bunch of shady, ultra-rich elites who want to enjoy the ultimate thrill -- hunting another human being like an animal. The first twenty or so minutes of the film were shot in and around Manhattan with various travelogue footage before Mr. Boulois finds himself presented with a key to a Grand Central Station lockbox containing a million dollars, which will be his if he survives the ordeal. He's then blindfolded, bundled onto a helicopter, and flown to a forested area (supposedly Florida) where he predictably reverts back to his days fighting in 'Nam, using his skill at jungle warfare to turn the tables on his hunters.
So far so good, but then the film takes a U-turn back to Manhattan where Boulois hooks up with his old Vietnam war buddy to claim his cash and finds that the whole thing was a setup. What started out as a "Black RAMBO" adventure turns into a "Black POINT BLANK" as he tries to get to the bottom of the organization which decided to make sport of his life. We meet a scuzzy FBI agent (depicted as being in Washington by showing the city on a map), his pretty pistol-packin' female assistant who has a taste for African art (??), encounter intrigue with the faked suicide of a former Army colonel who had been part of the hunting party, various bombs and offscreen explosions, all of it leading to a very French looking "Mr. Big" type tycoon who's gated mansion is patrolled by armed guards carrying walkie talkies with antennas as big as the Eiffel Tower.
In fact, a lot of the props, costuming, and cinematography in the film is nothing short of bizarre: we are treated to an absurd 8 wheeled ATV driven by the hunters, a pistol who's holster never seems to find it's way onto a belt, bad guys who conveniently dress in the same kind of clothes (and the same size) as Boulois -- helpful if you need to change costumes but don't have a budget for anything beyond what might be available already in your star's closet -- and LOTS & lots of footage of Boulois driving around America, looking at the neon signs, advertising images, billboards, name brand hotels and, oddly, post offices of the USA, combined with action sequences that look like they were filmed back in France. No opportunity for a camera angle of relevance is wasted, with cityscape compositions galore. Yet once you get down to it the film is somewhat aimless and lacks energy, which is surprising considering that the multi-talented Bouloise wrote, directed, starred in, and composed & performed the music for the damn thing. He probably did the drawings & paintings prominently positioned in the film as well as the catering too, brown bagging it for the crew from his own refrigerator.
If only he'd had an idea of what he wanted to do, and some kind of an actual conclusion, this might have actually become some kind of a minor cult hit, like his highly regarded OTHELLO THE BLACK COMMANDO adaptation of Shakespeare. He's a decent actor, likable guy and a believable action figure, but for a lot of the film has about as much charisma as a G.I. Joe doll. Is this supposed to be social satire? A revenge thriller? A commentary on race & identity in the final year of the Carter administration? Who knows, but the end result strikes me as a well intentioned effort by a really talented guy with a lot of spare time on his hands who got a few thousand dollars together, found himself a camera & someone to operate it, called in a few favors from some friends who were in the film business, and made a little action movie about driving around between the toll booths of America's highways. The guns, hunting, plots and shootouts are just decorations to keep viewers from getting too bored.
One other curious thing about the film is it's dating: The IMDb has 1980 as it's release, but for a movie with a fair share of touristy New York City scenery footage, the World Trade Center is never shown. The music is also strangely anachronistic for a 1980 production: disco calypso jazz? The photograph of Jimmy Carter helps to pin the effort to some point between 1976 and 1980, but if I were to guess it would be closer to the former than the latter, maybe 1977. And that may speak volumes about the movie -- One spends more time trying to figure out when it was made then being involved in it's story. I like it's ultra-cheap "handmade" production standards & the drab ordinariness of the things Boulois decided to film. New York City has never look so un-glamorous, and that in itself is pretty remarkable for a self made movie by a former sports star from France once you stop and think about it.
5/10: Good luck finding a copy to see though, it's obscurity is perhaps deserved.
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