Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Message Movie, Political Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 16, 1977 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 155 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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The cinematic odyssey of Billy Jack comes to a memorably surreal finale with this terminally odd combination of left-wing politics and crowd-pleasing melodrama. This film basically plops the character of Billy Jack down in the middle of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Needless to say, the results are eccentric -- a classic Billy Jack-style fight scene pops up in the middle of what is ostensibly a dialogue-driven melodrama, and Lucie Arnaz delivers a lengthy, cynical monologue about how Congress and the House of Representative bog down the work they are supposed to achieve. The film is also rather stilted -- the politicos are either hopelessly complacent and ineffectual or so villainous they make Snidely Whiplash look like a saint. However, Billy Jack Goes to Washington remains oddly watchable for the patient viewer despite this high level of eccentricity. Director/co-writer/star Tom Laughlin might not be able to coat his message in easily digestible entertainment, but he knows how to make a slick-looking film and manipulate the audience on a mechanical but effective level. Billy Jack Goes to Washington also benefits from the best cast of any Billy Jack film -- Arnaz, Sam Wanamaker, and E.G. Marshall all deliver committed, energetic performances, with Marshall taking home top honors as a corrupt but regretful politician torn between his corrupt industrialist patron and Billy Jack. Ultimately, Billy Jack Goes to Washington is too contrived and hysterical in tone to be genuinely effective for most viewers, but its distinctively unusual combination of elements make it an interesting curiosity piece for adventurous film buffs.