Are there any movies that you like, well — just because?
That pretty much sums up my view of director Richard T. Heffron’s 1976 effort Trackdown, a pretty standard out-for-revenge flick that certainly doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself from the pack, but doesn’t really do anything wrong, either, and is just well-executed enough — and enough of an obviously- dated product of its time — to make it an enjoyable way to spend just over 90 minutes of your life.
In short, is it anything special? No. But is it probably better than whatever else you were planning on watching tonight? Sure!
The particulars, then : Montana tough guy Jim Calhoun (or, as he’s more commonly referred to here, just “Calhoun” — played by James Mitchum, who for a minute there looked like he might pick up the family mantle from his old man) hits the sleazy streets of L.A. in search of his runaway kid sister, Betsy (Karen Lamm). Of course he gets no help from the cops, so he’s forced to enlist the aid of long-legged Good Samaritan Lynn Strong (Cathy Lee Crosby, a few years before she started ending all of her sentences with “—and that’s incredible!”) and the youthful Latin lover, known by his “street handle” of Chucho (a pre-C.H.I.P.S Erik Estrada), who got the poor hapless country girl into all this trouble in the first place!
And what sort of “trouble” are we talking about here, you may ask? Oh, you know : drugs, prostitution — the usual stuff we’re told all innocent young females who land on Hollywood Boulevard end up in. If you must know the running order of indignities, here goes : Chucho engineers a set-up whereby his buddies rip off Betsy’s suitcase,then proceeds to fall in love with her over the course of an afternoon, but that evening his buddies come back and take her from him, gang rape her, pump her full of “downers,” actually fucking sell her to a purveyor of carnal pleasures for the well-to-do-crowd named Johnny Dee (Vince Cannon, hamming it up in a deliciously sleazy role) when his main squeeze (played by Anne Archer) takes a shine to the drugged-out damsel, and the poor kid finally winds up dead when an asshole john her newfound “friends” fix her up with decides to get a little too rough with her.
Of course, big bro doesn’t know she’s dead while he’s out kicking ass and taking names, but once he finds out — all bets are off. Not that he was exactly playing “Mr. Nice Guy” to begin with.
So — hey, like I said, not much to complain about here. A pretty solid cast, some above-average stunt work, a reasonably involving (if a bit by-the-numbers) story, and some fun vintage (now, at any rate — it wasn’t at the time) Hollywood Boulevard location work all combine to make Trackdown a more enjoyable ride than any film with a couple of original songs by Kenny fucking Rogers probably deserves to be. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion that doesn’t linger too long on any pesky questions about the morality of revenge, or portray Calhoun’s ultimate “victory” as somehow being a hollow one, caps things off nicely, as well — after all, Heffron and company didn’t bother to make you think at any point up until the end, so why start in on that shit late in the game?
If this sounds like solid DVD bargain-pack material, the good news is that, thanks to Shout! Factory, that’s exactly what it is, since they’ve just included it (along with Bulletproof, Bamboo Gods & Iron Men, and Scorchy) on their two-disc 4 Action Packed Movie Marathon Volume Two double-disc set. There are no extras to speak of, the widescreen picture transfer looks pretty crummy (half the time you can’t tell what the heck is happening in the night-shoot scenes, the blackness is so impenetrable), and the mono soundtrack is merely adequate, but you’re able to make out what’s going on well enough to pump your fist in the air when Calhoun starts getting his pound of flesh, and that’s what movies like this are all about, right? At under ten bucks, the collection gives great value, even if we’re not exactly talking about great cinema here.
Sometimes “good enough” is precisely that — good enough. If you’re in a mood where that’ll do quite nicely, thank you, then you could do a lot worse than Trackdown. It’s a notch above “merely competent,” but several notches below “memorable.” It effortlessly occupies that nice middle ground of serving up something that lets you shut your brain off and just go with the flow. Sure, you’ve seen all of this done before, and all of it done better — but you’ve seen it done worse, too.Nobody involved with this has anything to be ashamed of as far as their work here goes, nor do they have anything to be tremendously proud of, either.
Shit, I didn’t want to make this sound like any given day at the typical American office, but doesn’t it, though?