Truckers form a mile long "convoy" in support of a trucker's vendetta with an abusive sheriff...Based on the country song of same title by C.W. McCall.Truckers form a mile long "convoy" in support of a trucker's vendetta with an abusive sheriff...Based on the country song of same title by C.W. McCall.Truckers form a mile long "convoy" in support of a trucker's vendetta with an abusive sheriff...Based on the country song of same title by C.W. McCall.
Some blame the basic concept, basing an entire movie on a three-year-old AM novelty hit. Like the song, it's a rambling tale about truckers ramming roadblocks and talking to each other on citizens-band radios. Kris Kristofferson as lead trucker Rubber Duck seems sheepish about the overall point, while Ali MacGraw as his love interest looks uncomfortable in a bad haircut.
"Convoy" isn't Shakespeare, but for the first 35 minutes it establishes an amiable tone and a colorful cast of supporting players. The jokes are hit-and-miss, but establish an enjoyable trucker camaraderie. Kristofferson's not much of an actor for me, but he's effective here working his gruff-but-kindly persona for what it's worth.
The early part of the film culminates in a fistfight in a roadstop diner. This sequence is well-shot and edited, belying the notion of Sam directing the entire film out of his skull on cocaine. A slow-motion shot of ketchup splattering over one combatant shows Bloody Sam had a sense of humor about his reputation. One cop seems impervious to fists and chairs alike, leaving Duck to marvel: "That ain't no cop, that's a mule wearing a uniform." You laugh because it's set up well.
But then the film moves to the Rubber Duck and his pals escaping the law, and with that ideas run out fast. The movie pushes its points, hazy as they are, with unbecoming directness. One cop introduces himself: "My name is Bob Bookman, sir, and I hate truckers." The Duck goes on some existential tangent about his growing band of followers, telling his pal Pig Pen (Burt Young) "Who the hell else they got?"
Much of the film focuses on Sheriff "Dirty" Lyle, overplayed by an uncommonly intense Ernest Borgnine, who chases the Duck because, well, he's the law and doesn't like backtalk from people he hits up for bribes. The story wanders into amnesty discussions between the Duck and an ambitious governor, with assorted points about grandstanding politicans hammered over and over.
In an out-of-nowhere dramatic shift, trucker Spider Mike (Franklin Ajaye) is beaten and stuck in jail in Texas, setting the stage for the Duck to break him out. The amiable comedy of the early film still lingers, but it's largely overwhelmed by this and other stabs at significance. By the end, the Duck has passed from myth to deity in a drawn-out finale with a lot of strained laughter. Here's an idea: It's a comedy when the audience is left laughing, not the actors on screen.
"Convoy" never sinks entirely; the visuals are cool and the supporting cast fun company. It just doesn't do enough with what it has. It's here I think Peckinpah failed the film, not working the script in a more engaging direction. He leans on stunts in place of story; after the fifteenth flipped cop car I started getting old "A-Team" flashbacks.
A lot of familiar faces from other Peckinpah films appear here, in both lead and supporting roles. Sam himself appears twice, as a boom operator in a camera car chasing the convoy and as a face on the T-shirt of Widow Woman (Madge Sinclair) that reads: "Uncle Sam Wants You".
Early in the film, Widow Woman sums up the spirit of "Convoy" when someone asks her if she wants to join them in their law-breaking adventure. "Why the hell not?" she replies. It's a line that worked when Ben Johnson said it in "The Wild Bunch". Here it is not so convincing. "Convoy" entertains, but it never convinces. For a Peckinpah movie, that isn't good enough.
- Jul 23, 2010