Friday, December 23, 2016

Convoy (1978 film)

Directed by Sam Peckinpah and written by Bill L. Norton, Convoy is the story of a group of truckers who band together to do a convoy and deal with a corrupt sheriff. Based on C.W. McCall song of the same name and the CB radio-fad of the 1970s, the film is an action-adventure film that revolves around the craze into a road-like adventure. Starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Burt Young, Madge Sinclair, Franklyn Ajaye, Burt Young, Seymour Cassel, and Ernest Borgnine. Convoy is a silly and uninteresting film from Sam Peckinpah.

The film follows around a trucker whose encounters with a corrupt sheriff forces him to create a convoy from Arizona to Texas in order to avoid persecution during a brawl at a restaurant. It’s a film with a simple story but it never makes sense into what is going on into why these truckers are doing a convoy across the American Southwest while trying to avoid the authorities. The film’s screenplay has a lot that is happening but it often feels very derivative of the car chase films of the 1970s. Most notably Smokey and the Bandit but with lots of trucks and a more devious antagonist as it never really provides any idea of what these truckers are doing a convoy for as its protagonist Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson) becomes some unlikely folk hero. Though Rubber Duck is definitely the most interesting character of the film along with a few fellow truckers, they’re not given much to do or be fleshed out more while Duck’s traveling companion in a photographer Melissa (Ali MacGraw) is just some love interest.

While there are elements in Sam Peckinpah’s direction that bear some of his visual trademark in terms of his elaborate action set pieces and slow-motion approach to action. Yet, it feels quite derivative as it goes overboard and doesn’t really do much to help tell the story while it is clear that there was some tampering into what Peckinpah was trying to do. While there are some wide shots of the locations with some second unit direction provided by James Coburn. The direction is often focused on close-ups and medium shots to capture what goes on inside a truck as well as the world of the truck stops and camps where they go into. Yet, they don’t really do much visually where Peckinpah wanted to balance not just some of the action but also the humor as the latter feels forced. When it reaches it climax in this showdown between Rubber Duck and the sheriff known as Cottonmouth (Ernest Borgnine), it does feel quite derivative as it is overly stylized and it is followed by something that is quite lame as it pertains to its ending which is definitely something Peckinpah doesn’t do. Overall, Peckinpah creates a messy and ridiculous film about a trucker leading a convoy against a vile sheriff.

Cinematographer Harry Stradling Jr. does nice work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the gorgeous sunny locations of the American Southwest in the day along with some lighting for the scenes set at night. Editors Garth Craven and John Wright do OK work with the editing where it does showcase what is happening yet its approach in the slow-motion cuts and some of the fast-cutting is just downright terrible. Production designer Fernando Carrere, with set decorator Frank Lombardo and art director J. Dennis Washington, does nice work with some of the interior of the trucks and truck stops as well as the truckers‘ camp in the film‘s second half. Sound mixer William Randall does some fine work with the sound as it play into the way the horns sound as well as the truck engines and other moments involving the action. The film’s music by Chip Davis is pretty good for its mixture of orchestral music with bits of country to play into the world of the American Southwest while music supervisor Bill Fries creates a soundtrack filled with music from Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle, Kenny Rogers, Doc Watson, Anne Murray, and a new version of the titular song by C.W. McCall.

The casting by Lynn Stalmaster is superb for the ensemble that is created despite its lackluster script as it feature some notable small roles from Jorge Russek as a brutal sheriff from Texas, Tommy Bush as a sheriff trying to help Cottonmouth, Donnie Fritts as the Reverend Sloane who rides a bus and joins the convoy with his band of hippie churchgoers, Cassie Yates as Rubber Duck’s waitress girlfriend Violet, and Seymour Cassel as New Mexico governor Jerry Haskins who wants to use Rubber Duck for his own political campaign for the senate. Franklyn Ajaye and Madge Sinclair are good in their respective roles as the African-American truckers Spider Mike and Widow Woman with the former wanting to get home to his wife for the birth of his child and the latter being this quirky, Rastafarian-type of gal.

Burt Young is terrific as Bobby aka Pig Pen/Love Machine as the comic relief who is also a realist as he is this trucker that knows what is going on and can smell bullshit from miles away. Ernest Borgnine is terrible as the sheriff Cottonmouth as a sheriff that is quite dark yet is often seen as a comic foil as Borgnine is unfortunately put into some very humiliating moments. Ali MacGraw is uninspired as Melissa as a photographer with a bad haircut who is just there as a reluctant love interest that is trying to understand what Rubber Duck is doing as it’s just a badly written character. Finally, there’s Kris Kristofferson in a wonderful performance as Rubber Duck as a truck driver who has had enough of Cottonmouth’s abusive attitude as he decides to go on the run unaware that he’s created a convoy even though it’s a role that isn’t well-written either.

Convoy is a pretty bad film from Sam Peckinpah that bear little of his oeuvre as well as the fact that it’s just a film based on a fucking novelty song. It’s a film for anyone interested in the CB craze of the 70s might want to take an interest in but this is definitely an inessential film from Peckinpah as it shows a director not in total control. In the end, Convoy is just a terrible film from Sam Peckinpah.

Sam Peckinpah Films: The Deadly Companions - Ride the High Country - Major Dundee - Noon Wine - The Wild Bunch - The Ballad of Cable Hogue - Straw Dogs - Junior Bonner - The Getaway - Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid - Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia - The Killer Elite - Cross of Iron - The Osterman Weekend - The Auteurs #62: Sam Peckinpah

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