I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Tracker

tn_thetrackerKris Kristofferson is… THE TRACKER. He’s like Tommy Lee Jones in THE HUNTED, except this is the Old West so it’s probly both a more common skill set and a more useful one. He’s a guy who can glance at some footprints in the dirt and tell you how many people were there, their size, what kind of horses they had, how long ago it was, possibly their political beliefs and religious backgrounds. There’s a part where he points out where a horse is leaning to the right on every fourth step and that means the rider is holding his gun a certain way which means he’s left handed. (Which I don’t think turned out to be important, it was just showing off I guess.) Man, I couldn’t even tell which one was the fourth step, but this guy’s so used to knowing this shit he thinks it’s easy to explain. His name is Noble Adams and he’s famous enough that the guy he’s after is honored and almost star struck when he finds out who’s tracking him.

mp_thetrackerAlthough Noble is mainly known as The Tracker, let’s not undersell his skills as A Shooter. There’s a real good shot of him knocking a guy off a horse long distance. He carries an old single-shot and when his son asks what happens if he misses he says, “I don’t plan to.” It’s funny how cool it is in movies to not have a contingency plan, as opposed to, say, with the Iraq war in real life. There it’s not quite as endearing.

The people he needs to track are a band of Danites. You know what that is? The killers who did the dirty work for the Mormon Church. I saw a more positive portrayal of them in another made-for-cable western, THE AVENGING ANGEL by Craig Baxley. An unsually dashing Tom Berenger played an honorable Danite tortured by his sins. He was kind of a masochist who sacrificed himself for the Church, which turned out to be corrupt, but he was still a hero. In this movie the Danites are crazy marauders. Their leader, Stillwell (Scott Wilson), is supposedly a Saint, but is clearly a lunatic. He starts the shit by shooting some old men for “cheating” him (i.e. beating him) in a card game, and this turns into a rampage of murder and rape. And he kidnaps a little girl who he implies he wants as his wife (but don’t worry, he’ll wait 3 years for her to grow up).

In case that’s not bad enough for you, motherfucker’s also a racist. He starts spouting some Book of Mormon scripture about God giving the evil people dark skin and if they convert they’ll turn “pale and delightsome.” Even his posse of rapists seem a little offended by this, and tell him “You know that’s bullshit.”

By the way, Patrick Swayze’s brother Don is one of the bad guys. Not sure if anybody was asking but if so yes, Don Swayze is in this.

Noble is settled down with a second wife and his son Tom (Mark Moses) is just back from college. Tom tells his dad that he can’t stay, he’s gonna go back East to practice law. Instead of being sad dad says that every man’s gotta find his own way. They got a couple weeks to spend together first, but then Marshal David Huddleston (title character, THE BIG LEBOWSKI) comes to him with this Danite shit. Long story short, Noble and Tom both go. You know, the old fashioned father-son tracking trip.

There’s alot of cliche here – like a whole thread about Tom having a hard time killing people and it’s supposed to be him becoming a man when he learns how to do it without feeling bad. But the bonding and shit is pretty effective. There’s a fun scene where some bounty hunters see Tom bathing and make fun of the size of his equipment. When they won’t let it go later on he schools them with his college boxing training. Huddleston calls it an “artistic” ass-beating.

Not surprisingly, Kristofferson is the best part of the movie. One nice moment: he’s crouched down in a shooting match with some guys headed his direction, suddenly his horse rears up and falls over dead behind him. He just kind of glances casually over his shoulder and doesn’t miss a beat.

There’s some pretty cool, John Carpentery music by Sylvester Levay (STONE COLD), but the filmatism is mostly TV-slick. From the cover I mistook it for a late ’70s or early ’80s theatrical release, but it’s actually made for HBO in ’88. But you know, I watched it, and I enjoyed it. So it’s both watchable and enjoyable.

THE TRACKER was the last movie by John Guillermin, director of SHAFT IN AFRICA and THE TOWERING INFERNO. It was written by Kevin Jarre, one of the writers of RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, January 8th, 2010 at 3:35 am and is filed under Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

48 Responses to “The Tracker”

  1. If i was kristofferson’s friend i’d call his kids the kkk, and then he wouldn’t wanna be my friend anymore. Fine, whatever

  2. Yet another good review.

  3. This may be old, but yesterday I just read a story by Ethan Hawke (!) on Rolling Stone’s website about KK’s verbal beatdown of Toby Keith at a concert for Willie Nelson. He truly is the man.

  4. Any chance this recent Kristofferson train will swing by Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid?

    Flawed, but awfully effective in one or another of the restored versions, and it’s funny seeing Kristofferson looking so goddamn young but still packing that voice.

  5. There is also an Australian movie called The Tracker. It’s good.

  6. My wife was raised Mormon, and it is a crazy religion. It is extremely racists. I could be mistaken but I swear they thought that the native Americans had red skin because of their relationship to the devil. A lot of people make fun of all the silly shit in Scientology (and rightfully so), but the Mormon religion is in many ways equally as wacky with a history of racism, sexual abuse, and murder as well.

  7. I like the quote on that poster. Isn’t calling Kristofferson the “leading western film star” of 1988 kind of faint praise? Who exactly was he competing against? Emilio Estevez? It’s like calling the Black Crowes the leading classic rock combo of 1993.

  8. I have many Mormons on my father’s side of the family. They live out west so I don’t see them often, but every time I do I always get the same impression: they are almost without fail all sweet, likable people, and their religious views are batshit crazy. At my grandfathers funeral back in 2008, I can recall listening in disbelief at all the talk about how your spirit one day rejoins with your body and you’re resurrected. I’m not very religious but I can at least understand believing the afterlife, but resurrection seems kind of nutty to me. Mormon zombies?

    Also I’m pretty sure my grandfather had to, by church law, leave much of his money to the church and only a fraction could be left to his wife. Kinda fucked up.

    But like I said, the actual people themselves are almost always friendly and likable.

  9. I’m pretty sure the zombie resurrection thing is common to a lot of Christian faiths, even if they don’t talk about it too much. I remember as a young Catholic in CCD hearing about how we would all be brought back from the grave when Jesus came back to town and thinking that that was really fucked up. What about people who were lost at sea? Would they come back to life on the bottom of the ocean and then just drown again, or would they be immortal but then have to swim thousands of miles to shore? Or would they just be fucked because they didn’t have a proper Christian burial, even if they were good people who deserved to enjoy heaven on earth?

    Needless to say I chose atheism when I was 14 and I haven’t looked back.

  10. I guess what really confuses me about the resurrection thing is that it seems like some sort of weird denial of the spiritual in favor of the material. Like, your big reward is that your soul is going to be plucked from the afterlife and shoved back into your body? You’re just a live again? Granted, I guess you’re alive living in some cool place with God, but what was the point of dying in the first place if he was just going to bring you back?

    I am also an atheist, but the majority of my friends and family are at least casually religious, so I’m cool with most people’s beliefs. But some of this stuff just seems so weird and kooky, I have trouble comprehending that an intelligent adult could actually believe it. Does that make me an intolerant asshole?

  11. The resurrection thing, in the evangelical church I was raised in, was explained
    as being not restored to the body you currently have that decays little by little,
    but being given a new body that lasts forever, one that is no less concrete than
    the one you’re in now. So I guess that was a way to get around the bodies
    lost at sea and such. Chopped up bodies. Deformed.

  12. Man, I’m seeing this movie just for the Danites-as-villians angle.

    If anyone’s interested a really fun but scary book to read is “No Man Knows
    My History” by Fawn Brodie. It details the life of Joseph Smith and she talks
    about how he got the Danites started for protection, but then didn’t want to
    officially be seen as telling them to knock people off, etc. Like the Mormon
    mob. I think it would make a great HBO series.

  13. BIG LOVE: RISE OF THE DANITES

  14. YES. It could be about Bill Paxton’s great-great grandfather.

  15. “There’s a part where he points out where a horse is leaning to the right on every fourth step and that means the rider is holding his gun a certain way which means he’s left handed. (Which I don’t think turned out to be important, it was just showing off I guess.)”
    is he as good a tracker as Aragorn though? That guy could look at a battle site and figure out where a pair of Hobbits were, that they were tied up as they crawled along the grass, and where they ran off too.

  16. Vern, please review Convoy next. It is my favorite trucker movie featuring both Kris Kristofferson and Ernest Borgnine and directed by Peckinpah.

  17. I would also recommend WHITE LINE FEVER, DEADHEAD MILES, and BREAKER, BREAKER as other trucker movies worthy of consideration. The lattermost is Chuck Norris’ first starring role, so it’s a nice mix of convoys and kung fu.

  18. Mr. Majestyk : Good points . What if the guy resurrecting was blown to pieces ? Is every single part resurrected , and judged accordingly ? “Well , Johnny Nutbag , you did good with your hands , but you’ve sinned with your left foot . Remember when you kicked that cat in the nuts ? Unacceptable. ”
    I don’t believe in the religious figure of God , but I do believe in something after . Maybe we can’t measure it or study it , yet . If there’s nothing , I will gladly come back as a zombie .

  19. I was raised mormon, got my degree from BYU, and served a two-year mission. I worked my way out of the church about 7 years ago when I realized I could no longer take seriously the beliefs that were instilled in me from a very young age. I’m atheist now but I’m still really interested in the bizarre history of my old religion. I’ve never heard of this movie but will check it out now, Vern, thanks to your review. I recently watched a movie called September Dawn that depicts a horrible event in mormon history–the Mountain Meadows Massacre. That movie was crap. This looks a lot cooler.

  20. Good calls Mr. Majestyk. I have not seen DEADHEAD MILES but those others are good. I’ve always thought the trucker genre could make a minor comeback. There are still a lot of great characters and stories to be told from this world and those trucks are still visually pretty iconic. The blue collar action movie has been sadly ignored for a long time now and it’s about time it got the respect it deserves.

  21. Couldn’t agree more, Darryll. I want some movies about regular working-class dudes who use their professional skills (i.e., driving a big fucking truck) to kick ass. The great thing about the trucker genre was that the hero wasn’t trying to fight evil or anything; he was just trying to make a living. Kind of makes the plot more relatable when the guy’s worried about making his mortgage payment.

    DEADHEAD MILES is more of an existential trucker movie, though. Alan Arkin is this dude who goes kind of nuts, steals a rig, and drives across the country getting into weird situations that don’t really add up to anything resembling a plot. Then the movie just ends. You could get away with shit like that in the seventies.

  22. DEADHEAD MILES sounds kinda like TWO LANE BLACKTOP. As an existential road picture it’s pretty fascinating but, man, does it meander. Yeah, only in the seventies. I wonder, though, how the trucker genre came about in the first place. I know it’s an outgrowth of the counterculture road pictures of the sixties and early seventies (VANISHING POINT) but at which point did someone marry the trucking industry to that concept? I’ve always been interested in movie firsts and genre firsts. Does anyone know what the first trucker movie was?

  23. Part of the genesis of the trucker genre was the big CB radio fad of the seventies, which spawned the song that CONVOY was based on. Couple that with the dominance of car culture and the prevalence of car crash pictures at the drive-in and you’ve got your answer.

  24. Wasn’t there a Marvel character wose sole power was that he had a metal plate in his skull that allowed him to pick up CB transmissions? I think it was called Route 66 or something like that and the dude was a trucker out for revenge.

  25. That’s awesome. I bet he thought he was hot shit until everybody started running around with phones attached to their heads.

  26. Another good , enjoyable , but not classic trucker movie is Black Dog , with Patrick Swayze , in another of his badass roles , and , uhm , Meat Loaf . I learned of this movie in another talkback here , I don’t remember exactly , but I’ve seen it , and it has this twist about a supernatural black dog . When something bad is about to happen to a trucker , he has visions of this black dog . They don’t really explain this legend all that much , but it’s a fantasy spin on the trucker formula that’s way better than ” catching CB messages with your skull “.
    That’s lame .

  27. Yeah, you’re right, Mr. Magestyk. There were whole albums of trucker themed country and western music back then and CONVOY by C.W. Mcall was a song that had crossover mainstream success. After CONVOY THE MOTION PICTURE, though, which was a flop at the box office, the trucker genre lived on television for a while with shows like BJ AND THE BEAR. By that time the genre was nothing but watered down family fare. All of the tropes were still present; the trucks, the cops, and the girls, but the grit and the metal and been bled out of it. I truly believe there are some great american stories still to be told within this genre. A truck stop is still a place where anything can happen. The highways and byways of America are still just as wild and beautiful as ever. In fact, now that I think about it, the road picture, in general, has suffered great neglect in recent years. Can anyone recall the last good road picture they saw? For me, I suppose it was, what? JOY RIDE? I liked that one a lot but it was pretty derivative of a lot of other, better films. And it involved college kids, which I am really tired of seeing in movies. And the last great car crash picture I saw was…RONIN which was really more of a heist picture and didn’t take place in North America. The FAST/FURIOUS flicks may qualify in some opinions but not in mine.

  28. The last good road movie I saw was Zombieland, but other than that, you’re right, the road movie seems to be the province of terrible Robin Williams comedies these days. Nobody seems to take it seriously anymore, which is a shame.

  29. Yeah. RV culture has replaced big rig culture. What would Jerry Reed think?
    Anyway, I’m hopeful that Miller’s FURY ROAD will feature some road picture elements, albeit in a post apocalypse setting. A story that involves travel across long distances would be a good way to go. Max leading a bunch of refugees across a blasted landscape to a promised land or something. Kinda’ harkening back and expanding on the ending of Road Warrior. One of the elements of the traditional road picture is the ever changing scenery. This is something I’d like to see in a Mad Max picture. An opportunity to see what areas other than the desert look like after the total collapse of society.

  30. CallMeKermiT – You know BLACK DOG isn’t good. The flipping in midway of the tractor trailer was cool, but the rest is generic forgettable. Its what I expect from the same director of PASSENGER 57.

    That said, some moments did show some real intriguing promise where the Truck crew having to use ingenuity, guns, and highway knowledge to protect their precious cargo from fuckin’ Meatloaf. I mean this promised WAGES OF FEAR/SORCERER type storytelling of rogues having to band together to survive and make a payday.

  31. RRA : Is pretty generic , yeah , and it really didn’t deliver all that much . As I said one of the most interesting things was that black dog legend , and they don’t explain it or use it all that much , so even for me it didn’t deliver on the initial promise. But I liked some parts of it ( the “legend” part ) , and you liked some other parts ( the highway knowledge parts ) for other reasons , so I at least think that the movie was trying different things , and this different elements worked . The final result is less entertaining than I expected , but it’s a movie you can watch , have a few moments of fun with it and then forget it . I really liked Swayze in this , but it’s not a classic and I will not try to find it in DVD , that’s for sure.

  32. Kermit – agree.

    Fun if sad fact: Patrick Swayze only got BLACK DOG because Kevin Sorbo backed out.

    Yes Kevin HERCULES Sorbo.

  33. I don’t get atheists anymore than i do adamantly religious people. How either group could think they have the 100% definitive answer to life the universe and everything(turns out it’s 42)is beyond me.

    Agnosticism all the way, we’re like the Swiss of religions.

  34. I like the Kris Kristofferson story about working on Convoy , and trying to stop whoever was in charge from firing Peckinpah –

    “When we were on Convoy, they tried to fire him, and I told them I’d walk, too, if they did. And I guess I was hot enough then that they gave a shit. But afterwards I’m walking out of there back to my truck and Peckinpah comes out and says, ‘Goddamn you, ya stupid sonofabitch, I was almost outta here and you dropped me back in this shit!”

    Also, I did not know about these Danite people before. Interesting shit.

  35. No kidding, someone who’s actually seen THE AVENGING ANGEL? I was in a summer theater workshop chaired by the guy who wrote the novel that was based on. I happened to be in that brief period in high school where every clown college in the country sends you tons of brochures trying to convince you to start getting mired in student loan debt with them instead of the others, and this particular university was pretty heavily recruiting me. At the time I was all, “well, if your program’s sole claim to fame is that one of your professors wrote a Western on TNT where Charlton Heston gets stalked by killer Mormons, I think I’ll take a pass.”

    But knowing that Craig Baxley directed it kind of piques my interest. Was it any good?

  36. Great Unwashed – Yeah, apparently Peckinpah was stinking drunk for the majority of the production. He had just lost any and all enthuisasm for directing a picture by that point. And it shows in the movie. The barroom brawl near the beginning is just a piss poor pale imitation of the brilliant operatic action sequences in films like the WILD BUNCH. Convoy is such an odd duck (Rubber). As far as seventies era truck drivin’ flicks go it’s a classic of the genre but in the canon of Sam Peckinpah, it does not hold up. I love it anyway, warts and all.

  37. don’t forget over the top.
    http://www.i-mockery.com/minimocks/over-the-top/16.gif
    http://www.joblo.com/video/joblo/player.php?video=OVER_THE_TOP–How-Sylvester-Stallone-Rings-a-Doorbell

    and even Chuck did some truckin’
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_V9NsN8zDj6s/SmkAhw5GFSI/AAAAAAAABH0/odw6dwwU37Y/s1600-h/breaker_breaker_poster_02.jpg

    fun fact, after one night of fuckin’ supermodels in his truck, Chuck’s seed got in the fueltank, 9 months later optimus prime was born.

  38. dieselboy, I can’t speak for all atheists, but I’m definitely not saying I have the answer. I’m just saying the answer is probably not a big all-powerful humanoid who says he loves me.

  39. Silly Majestyk, of course Barney the Dinosaur is the answer to everything, how could that not be the case?

  40. Majestic-let’s just agree there’s a Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sky and call it a done deal.

  41. Shhh! Don’t say its name or it’ll come for us!

  42. i found some random trucker comic called Gipsy Star. he’s a trucker in the future on a giant ice road and its European and he has sex with a witch and fucks people up with a knife. pretty badass

  43. Christian B – That story was serialized in Heavy Metal a few years back. One of the best things featured in HM in a long, long, long time. God, that magazine ruled in the seventies and early eighties. Some of the most fucked up, experimental comics in the world. The original Metal Hurlant was, apparently, even better. Some of the greatest names in european comics passed through those pages back in the day; Mobius, Torres, Bilal, Schuiten and Peeters etc. You can still find old back issues here and there. Great stuff.

  44. Darryll, I’ve read that CONVOY was Peckinpah’s most financially successful film, mostly because of the drive-in market. Even more successful than THE GETAWAY.

  45. According to IMDB, CONVOY’S gross domestic box office was $15,000,000 while the GETAWAY made $26,987,155. But really, that’s neither here nor there at this point. Which do you feel is the better film?

  46. According to ‘IF THEY MOVE KILL ‘EM: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAM PECKINPAH’ by David Weddle:

    “The final irony of the CONVOY debacle was that it turned out to be Peckinpah’s highest grossing picture, the biggest box-office hit of his career. It did outstanding business along the drive-in circuit in the Midwest and South, and in Europe and Japan, grossing $46.5 million worldwide.”

    And THE GETAWAY’s definitely better.

  47. $46.5 million? Wow. I totally get the drive-in success but Europe and Japan? I guess you can’t overestimate the fascination the rest of the world had with American culture. I suppose the blue collar, anti-authority road picture had resonance with a lot of people from all walks of life. I still contend, though, that CONVOY was a classic of it’s genre and I love it but I’ll also admit that it is cheesy and sloppy and doesn’t hold a candle to what Peckinpah was truly capable of. Kris Kristofferson is sexy as hell, though.

  48. One of my favorite screenwriters, Kevin Jarre also wrote TOMBSTONE.

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