1987’s Rolling Vengeance may have the distinction of being the most polite revenge exploitation film ever made.
The film was a latter day entry in the Canuxploitation cycle, the moniker given to the spate of low budget genre and exploitation films made in Canada under their tax shelter in the 70’s and 80’s. This fertile playground is where directors like David Cronenberg, Ivan Reitman, and Bob Clark cut their teeth, as well as being a mecca for cheap American producers looking to abuse the tax haven, which was instituted by the Canadian government in 1974 to jumpstart the country’s fledgling film industry. Many of the films produced in this era contain several, similar elements and themes, such as geographic isolation, blue collar characters, the indifference of the natural—cold, cold—world, body horror, and of course, pure and unadulterated politeness. And Rolling Vengeance is just oh so very nice.
For those of you who don’t remember, in the 80’s and 90’s, monster trucks were all the rage, and Steven H. Stern’s Rolling Vengeance was a not-so-disguised attempt to cash in on the fad. The movie stars Don Michael Paul as Joey Rosso, a young man running a trucking company with his father (Lawrence Dane from Scanners). But this is really Ned Beatty’s show. He plays Tiny Doyle, a tooth-missin’, shady, hick AF strip club/used car dealership owner (both located in the same parking lot, naturally). He’s also the backwoods patriarch of five degenerate, cartoonishly evil sons, who help run the family business and cause general mischief and murder all over town.
Everyone else in the film is just the most pleasant, down-to-earth people you’ve ever met; people you’d never want anything terrible to happen to. And nothing ever does.
Just kidding. Wouldn’t you believe that those Doyle boys are never up to any good? One afternoon while Joey’s sweet, loving mother is driving down the highway with all the younger siblings (awkwardly young compared to the ages of everyone else in the movie), they encounter the Doyle brothers in their truck, drunk as skunks, and hell-bent on harassing this family for no reason whatsoever. The fun and games end when they force Mrs. Rosso to crash into an oncoming semi-truck, killing everyone in the car.
This being a revenge film and all, the Doyles only receive a slap on the wrist from the judge and are free to go. And yeah, so now you’re thinking: are we ready for some badass monster truck justice served cold as antifreeze? Nope, not at all. The film settles back down into the family melodrama, and people continue being really, really nice.
It’s at this point one begins to wonder if it’s even possible for Rolling Vengeance to go as dark as something like Death Wish or Rolling Thunder. Joey’s just way too nice of a guy to smoke a bunch of fools, right? Well, fret not. One thing leads to another and another, which finally leads to Joey building a custom monster truck killing machine out of spare junkyard parts. It’s a wonder to behold. Take a look:
A drill on the front? Check? Flame exhausts? Check. Questioning what I’ve done with my life? Check.
Once the truck enters the movie about halfway through, you’re in for a treat. I hope you remembered I mentioned something about a used car lot somewhere above. And the writers of this film are fully aware of playwright Anton Chekhov’s rule that a drill on a monster truck introduced in the second act must be used to pulverize hicks.
Overall, the tone of the entire affair is all over the place, but it doesn’t matter. The running time is short and sweet (90 minutes) and Ned Beatty’s hammed up performance negates anything bad you could possibly say about this film. Throw in a cheese-tastic, Survivor-esque rock soundtrack, and you’re a terrible person for bothering to finish this review and not immediately purchasing the awesome Kino Lorber blu ray.
Final item of note: The opening of the movie has one of my favorite half-assed, homoerotic beer car wash fights ever.
Second final item of note: Let’s just look at his badass truck one more time.