United States – 1983
Director – Steve Carver
MGM Home Entertainment, DVD, 2001
Lone Wolf McQuade it would seem, gave Norris the impetus, planting the bitter kernel that would grow into the Texas Ranger we know today. One fun part about this movie is that it co-stars David Carradine as the bad guy who wears an assortment of cozy sweatervests throughout the film. At least we know there's gonna be a sweet fight between the two of ‘em at the end of the movie.
The first thing you'll notice about this movie is the sweet footage of a wolf stalking around behind the credits. Of course there hasn’t been a damn wolf in Texas for 200 years, but who cares. It's probably just a hungry coyote hunting house cats, and considering what follows, that metaphor is more appropriate.
The second thing you'll notice is the blatant Ennio Morricone knock-off music, complete with whistling, which scores just about every scene in this movie.
Some scummy-lookin' bandidos are rustling some horses when they are confronted by some Texas Rangers who fumble their guns and get the crap kicked out of ‘em. Enter J.J. McQuade with the midday sun right behind, illuminating him like jesus in a cowboy hat. With a series of karate kicks and perfectly aimed shots from his personal arsenal of small arms, he dispatches the lot. I get the sense that this is going to be a recurring theme.
Back at HQ, McQuade obviously has an outrageously fantastic arrest and conviction record, but his methods are too uncouth and uncultured for the brass. Norris mutters recalcitrant bitter threats and is assigned a partner. Buy one genre cliche, get the second free.
McQuade heads home to his shack and chicken coop. He has a refrigerator for his beer, and a whole platoon of scarecrow shooting targets surrounding his house, which he repeatedly practices shooting and blowing up with grenades after drinking all the beer. The Latino partner, spurned by Lone Wolf, watches through binoculars and gets a little bit too excited. This partner guy is gonna spend the whole movie trying to not come across as the "overachieving inferiority complex" minority character.
Between an evil midget in an electric wheelchair, an airhead girlfriend who has to die by the end of the movie, the daughter, and an ex wife, it's hard to believe Norris has time for it all Not to mention the minority sidekick, and then a snarly black FBI agent (Leon Isaac Kennedy), and finally a fully lifted and macho Ford Bronco that just won't quit, it's time to get down to business. We need to drag every single one of these supporting characters into a crazy plot with a massive explosion battle at the end.
Carradine buries McQuade alive in his Bronco, but after pouring a cold beer over his head to freshen up, the Lone Wolf stomps on the gas pedal and blasts his way out of the ground for the huge grenade-and-uzi-and-anti-tank-rocket battle at the end. As if you didn’t know it was coming, Carradine and his movie-fu takes on Norris and his redneckarate in the battle of a culture war of the decade. Sweater vest zero, hairy-pelt chest hero.
The pretty awesome poster art by C.W. Taylor.