All but unemployable due to health and addiction issues, to say nothing of the commercial & critical reception of his last four films (including a masterpiece in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA/’74), Sam Peckinpah signed up to direct this concept-looking-for-a-script package. (It had a hit song & the C.B. radio craze behind it.*) There’s something immensely sad seeing Peckinpah ape SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT/’77, even one with existential/nihilistic tendencies. (Or is it WHITE LINE FEVER/’75 meets BILLY JACK/’71?) The story, such as it is, has Ernest Borgnine’s Southern Sheriff out for revenge against a gaggle of truckers after he triggers a big bar fight with a racial insult. For some inexplicable reason, the truckers’ rebellion starts a Statewide populist uprising and scores of big rigs join in. The whole shebang doesn’t make a lick of sense, but at least some of the wrecks are well-staged. (But by whom? One dandy sequence has two big rigs making a sandwich out of a cop's car). On the other hand, the big fight scene that initiates all the to-do, which Peckinpah belabored over for a week, is like an inert parody of one his classic violence ballets, with pointless slo-mo punches & Hee-Haw comic reaction shots. Some of this is harmless fun, or is before an appalling cop-out of a tag-ending. With Ali MacGraw not quite so bad as you recall, Kris Kristofferson flaunting a long, lean torso and lenser Harry Stradling Jr fetishizing it between equally eye-catching vistas of trucks stretching to the horizon. All accompanied by a feeling of terrible cinematic waste.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *Jonathan Demme’s much-praised/little-seen HANDLE WITH CARE (aka CITIZEN’S BAND)/’77 found a way to develop the C.B. radio craze into humanist comedy.