Review: CONVOY (1978)

By Darin Skaggs

Convoy, alright, what is Convoy? Do any of us really know? I mean it is a movie that stars Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw and Ernest Borgnine. It is a movie directed by Sam Peckinpah. It is a movie based off the novelty song with the same name that is performed by C.W McCall. It also features CB radios which were much the fad at the time. Those are the facts, but Convoy wants to be so much more. It wants to be a zany, almost slapstick brawler. It wants to be a movie with a Christ analogy for all those brave truck drivers out there. It wants to be a Western, like many Peckinpah films before this. It is some of these things, but mostly it is just a confusing mess that gives proof of the land between hack and genius.

Kristofferson stars as a rough and tough truck driver Martin “Rubber Duck” Penwald that becomes the non-appointed leader of a convoy after him and some of his trucker buddies get into a brawl in a diner with some cops. The gang heads for the border where they cannot be prosecuted and when word gets out, how or why is beyond me, they are followed by a never ending group of supporters. Borgnine plays Sheriff Lyle Wallace the man set out to get Rubber Duck and his gang once and for all. Rubber Duck is joined by MacGraw’s character Melissa, who is just along for the ride after giving in to the notion she probably won’t be making her plane that day.

So our heroes beat up some cops and then run to a place so they can’t be arrested. There are many moments where the gang, mainly our hero Rubber Duck, breaks the law like run into a jail house with his eighteen wheeler to break his captured friend out, among other previously mentioned scenarios. Now we are supposed to forgive the captured friend because he has a nine month pregnant wife waiting at home. Here’s an idea, don’t be part of any trouble and get home to her. Anyways the real brain twister in this film is, why, for goodness sake why are people following these main truckers. How did their mission get out to the public? It is probably the CB radios constantly being used throughout the film. That is not the problem their mission is to run from police that they beat up, maybe the police were too mean to our gang, but the results are mostly the heroes fault. So why are tons of people following them? The only thing I see when the convoy is a family on vacation at the end of the line never finding a way to pass because they are simply too many vehicles.

Peckinpah might of saw that this was a ridiculous movie, mostly because it is based on a popular song, so he added some not so hidden themes into it. The Rubber Duck acts as some sort of Christ figure for this group. For what, again, not sure but he is. He’s got the beard, he is the lead driver being followed by many followers while being persecuted by a whole other group. Except Christ promised eternal life, this guy just doesn’t want to go to jail. He even makes a sacrifice for everybody and, spoilers, returns a few days later. I’m not sure why Peckinpah added this. He just might have needed to add some brain into the film, but it doesn’t really flow with the story.

Convoy is just so odd. At times the weirdness works, but as a whole the fights, crashes and long driving scenes just do not match. The acting is fine, maybe even good, but again the script is just so odd it doesn’t even matter how good the actors are. Convoy should at least be seen for its wackiness and messiness, but it is not a big achievement in film history.

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