Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Favorite Era: Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)

This is a reworking of a piece I did for The Agony Booth a few years ago.

Lone Wolf McQuade is the first film where everything fell in place for a good Chuck Norris film.  Previous films had come close like Forced Vengeance but for the most part, his early stuff was marred by bad pacing.  Here though, it's pretty much all action all the time to the point where this, along with Invasion U.S.A. serve as the best Chuck Norris films ever made.

Essentially a modern day western, it stars Chuck as Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade, the toughest son of a gun you are ever likely to meet.  He is a loner in every sense of the term and, of course, he is the best Ranger in the entire state.

The great thing about this film is how bat shit insane it is willing to be at times for the sake of entertainment.  We get tons of action, some tender moments here and there, a wheelchair bound dwarf crime boss, gratuitous Barbara Carrera and David Carradine as the bad guy.  Let's take a closer look.
  • An interesting note to begin with: if the rights to this film weren't tied up with Orion Pictures (does MGM still have the rights to their films or did they have to do a yard sale again?), Walker: Texas Ranger would have been McQuade: Texas Ranger.
  • Also, I strongly recommend not watching this film on a really hot day.  You will be in danger of getting heatstroke.  Being set in Texas, it does a wonderful job of showing just how face-peelingly hot it can get down there.  I don't even want to imagine the BO coming off the cast and crew at the end of a day's shooting.
  • The opening of the film is pretty cool as within seconds, we are looking at Chuck Norris in all of of his unshaven glory.  This was the first film he rocked the beard in and the look is accentuated by a fine layer of dirt and sweat.  This may in fact have the most sweat in any movie rated PG.
  • Incidentally, it's amazing this film ended up with a PG rating,  Hell, the amount of violence plus two f-bombs should have guaranteed it.  Not sure what happened there.
  • Adding to the coolness factor is the overall spaghetti western feel the entire movie has.  Director Steve Carver (who also did An Eye for An Eye with Norris) does fine work here, keeping the pace as blistering as the heat and never letting things slow down.
  • McQuade is observing a bunch of horse thieves from a mountain top and I love how for a brief couple of moments you're not entirely sure when the film is taking place.  It's just neat.
  • The horse thieves are set upon by a bunch of State Police officers who prove to be about as good catching and detaining criminals as Chuck Norris is at acting.  He ends up saving them (one of whom is Kayo, played by Robert Beltran) in a wonderfully Eastwood-esque bit of business where he stoically ignores rifle shots at his feet and proceeds to mow down a few goons with a machine gun.
  • The lead bandit is especially amusing, it would seem the actor watched every single old western he could find with a Mexican bandit and just turned the overacting up to eleven.
  • I love McQuade's truck, a dirty beat up hulk that also happens to have a supercharger built in.  It's so awesome that I called it Mega Truck in my original article.
  • Unintentionally hilarious is how much Kayo gushes over McQuade.  Not just after he guy saves his life, he's still going at it after being assigned as the guy's partner, ditched and tracked our hero to his ramshackle looking house.
  • I get a kick out of R.G. Armstrong and L.Q. Jones as McQuade's boss and best friend who has just retired respectively.  Both are good actors and they play their parts well.
  • David Carradine is fun as Wilkes, our scummy bad guy for the evening.  He's cool, evil and of course knows karate.  He makes for a fun Norris opponent, though Chuck said one time that Carradine was a good a martial artist as he is an actor.
  • You gotta love a guy known as a lone wolf who has a wolf as a pet.  Sure, they couldn't get the thing to snarl so when it does so as Kayo approaches, it just looks like a happy dog but still!
  • As with any proper Norris film, there is a family aspect that is shoehorned in which makes his films even more funny since he can't portray sincere emotion to save his life.  Unusually, it actually works as Dana Kimmell (Friday the 13th Part 3 survivor) turns in a likable performance as McQuade's daughter and he seems to be on good terms with his ex.
  • Actually, he may be on too good terms since there is so much affection between the two that it makes our hero look like a bit of a dope for not being with his family.
  • Barbara Carrera isn't too bad as Lola, Wilkes' associate.  She's not really good as an actress but she's easy on the eyes and she has one moment in the film that is pricelessly funny, though not for the right reasons.
  • Now is as good a time as any to mention crime boss Falcon.  Falcon is played by little person character actor Dan Frishman who was on Night Court for a few years.  He's quite memorable here, hamming it up like there's no tomorrow and rolling around in his motorized wheelchair while laughing like a loon.  It gets in the way once or twice but it's still an entertaining piece of acting.
  • The relationship stuff with McQuade and Lola is great for all the wrong reasons.  Carver finds a way around having two crappy actors though by having their love scene be done in overblown slow motion while Lola holds a gushing water hose (she came to McQuade's house to clean it up and they end up making out).  It's quite the sequence and is one of the funnier things in any of Chuck Norris' films.
  • After McQuade's daughter is seriously injured and her boyfriend is killed, McQuade is of course ready to take out the bad guys with extreme prejudice.  Joining him are Kayo and federal officer Jackson, played by B-action star Leon Isaac Kennedy.  He's pretty much Steve James on downers.
  • I love that McQuade's office is almost as much of a mess as his house.  The cleaning lady at the station must open the door and mutter to herself "Screw it, let him clean it up himself if he wants an office."
  • Character actor William Sanderson has a small role as a weaselly little slimeball McQuade captures and has his recently retired buddy watch.,  And yes, both of these guys end up dead in short order.  The action scene where Snow is caught is really good with some great vehicle stun work.  Hell, all the action here is top notch.
  • Snow reveals Wilkes is working for Falcon, stealing weapons and selling them across the border in Mexico.
  • McQuade's scene with Falcon is quite entertaining as Frishman just hams it up like there;s no tomorrow as he indicates he and Wilkes aren't in business together before exiting his office via a false wall.  He follows this up by telling McQuade his buddies are doomed (no speakers either, the man's voice is just that damn loud) with more insane laughter, naturally.
  • Stuff like that is why I love this movie.  Though to be honest, it's got nothing on hoe weird Walker: Texas Ranger got in the second half of its run.  There was one episode where the bad guys were foiled by a nun opening a door to let the dun (referred to as God's light) in.
  • Not sure we really needed Wilkes to kill the wolf but it's an over the top 80's action film so there you go.
  • I love that the hospital McQuade's daughter is at is Eastwood Hospital.
  • Great bit when after a bit of gunplay, Wilkes captures McQuade and buries him under the dirt in his truck.  In one of the classic moments in action cinema, McQuade gets out of this by pouring a beer over his head and gunning the motor, driving the truck out of the grave before killing two gunmen.  It's so awesome that my description barely does it justice.
  • I love how McQuade's reaction to a hand injury sustained during his time as a prisoner prompts him to destroy his training area like he's The Incredible Hulk.  It's just hilarious, complete with a little pathos as he looks at his pet's empty food dish and then thinks of Lola before the scene ends.  It's way above Norris' acting abilities and that just makes it better.
  • The final battle in Mexico to kill the bad guys and save the daughter is great as we get some shooting and some kicking followed up by not one, but two showdowns with Norris and Carradine.  Interestingly enough, Carradine had it written into his contract that he couldn't lose a martial arts fight on screen.  Fortunately, he had no problem being blown up with a hand grenade in a shack full of weapons and explosives.
Lone Wolf McQuade is my favorite Chuck Norris movie.  It's got great action, great pacing and some beautiful locations that really enhance the film.  It's right up there with Invasion U.S.A.  A real classic.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.