CONVOY: the greatest trucker film

(USA, 1978, Sam Peckinpah)

CONVOY

CONVOY is simultaneously Sam Peckinpah’s most perplexing and most casual effort, a post-SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT trucker chase flick, not merely inspired by, but based on the lyrics to a hit song describing the CB radio fad of the late ‘70s. Outlaw country maverick Kris Kristofferson is perfectly cast as “Rubber Duck,” an outlaw country maverick truck driver who finds himself on the run from the law, specifically, his arch-nemesis, a corrupt small-town sheriff named Lyle (Ernest Borgnine). With the help of a few friends and fellow truckers, he forms a huge convoy that barrels down the interstate, evading the feds while achieving folk hero status. Ali MacGraw goes along for the ride as a sexy photographer that Rubber Duck picks up on the way.

In the hands of a lesser talent, CONVOY would have quickly descended into sub-SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT chase film idiocy. The premise is slight, but the film is also better than it deserves to be thanks to Peckinpah’s directorial bravura. Peckinpah serves up a cartoonish vision of populist resistance and redneck revolt, while casually tossing in several surprisingly astute observations about trucker culture and working class solidarity. And then there are sporadic flashes of Peckinpah’s brilliance: not only beautifully choreographed action sequences but moments of genuine beauty. In one such sequence, as the convoy hurtles through a dirt road, lifting plumes of dust in the air, the filmmaking achieves a poetic, even balletic grace; adjectives that would never otherwise be used to describe a trucker action film. Unfortunately, the final act literally loses momentum as the film falls apart once the trucks stop moving. Peckinpah seemingly lost interest in the film’s silly plot as he reportedly descended into a haze of drug and alcohol abuse (James Coburn was brought in to help direct as an infirm Peckinpah languished in his trailer). But even if it is Peckinpah’s worst film, which it is widely reputed to be with the exception of his final film, THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, I’ll take Peckinpah’s worst over most directors’ best. For whatever it’s worth, CONVOY may be the best trucker movie ever. It was also, surprisingly, the highest grossing film of Peckinpah’s career at a time when his substance abuse was making him increasingly unhireable in Hollywood.

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One Response to “CONVOY: the greatest trucker film”

  1. james halcomb Says:

    Thanks, this is an awsome movie!! No man is a man until he has seen Peckinpah!!!

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