Dir: Tom Laughlin (credited as T.C. Frank), 1971
The karate expert, half-Indian, ex-Green Beret is back, kicking sense and cracking skulls all in the name of peace!
The pregnant, teenage hippie daughter of a sheriff joins a multi-ethnic hippie community group, facing closure by corrupt council officials.
Laughlin’s follow up to his hit, Born Losers, is a much more polished and professional movie, benefiting from a bigger budget and the input from his wife, Delores Taylor.
Whereas the previous film was, unintentionally, campy, Billy Jack has a more believable story and much stronger characterisation.
The amateurish direction and script of the Laughlin’s first film, gives way to a more solid and visionary approach with a very skillful eye for storytelling.
Director and writer, Laughlin, is hypocritical in making the Billy Jack films. The underlying theme of the series is about peace. People of all colours and races, living together in harmony. But, to put his point across, he uses violence. And it’s the violence that we’re supposed to enjoy.
For somebody to crave peace but use violence when it helps them, is insincere.
This doesn’t make it a bad film, at all. Not in the slightest. It’s a very enjoyable film, if not, a little bit, sanctimonious.
Laughlin pushes the hippie side of things slightly too much and, eventually, this becomes irksome.
Featuring a soundtrack of country music, the community sing songs of solidarity and government protests accompanied by acoustic guitars that become tiresome very quickly.
Often, the film is sidetracked by several sequences of the group performing some kind of improv theatre. None of this adds anything to the story and slows the film down, practically, to a halt.
If considerable more editing had been exercised, Billy Jack would have been much improved.
As it is, Tom Laughlin has made a thoroughly good film, with some entertaining fighting scenes and a likeable character that helps to propel the film to its cliffhanger ending.