Billy Jack1971

Stars: Tom Laughlin, Dan Barrows, Susan Foster, Ed Greenberg, Howard Hesseman
Genre: Action, Drama
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 114 minutes

This time-capsule film from 1971 is a perfect example of having one's cake and eating it, too. Written and directed by filmmaker Tom Laughlin--and starring him in the title role--Billy Jack concerns a half-white, half-Indian karate expert who protects a free school built on principles of pacifism by kicking hell out of pesky rednecks. The story actually embraces that tension between Billy Jack's way of doing things and that of the school's founder (Delores Taylor), but their tension doesn't so much lead to an examination of principles as it leads to an excuse for Laughlin to incorporate fight scenes between hippie politics. Crude and brutal, the film is pretty exploitative of a viewer's torn sympathies, and in that way Billy Jack actually anticipates much of the simple-minded, violent fare that followed in the movies of the '70s and '80s. --Tom Keogh

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