Can't really believe I've gone this long with this project without doing a Chuck Norris movie. THIS CHANGES NOW, with 1983's Lone Wolf McQuade, perhaps the most Chuck Norris of Chuck Norris movies.
J.J. McQuade (Chuck Norris) is a damn good Texas Ranger, but also an antisocial loner and a slob. Oh, and he has a pet wolf. He plays by his own rules, and doesn't appreciate when his chief saddles him with an enthusiastic local cop, Kayo Ramos (Robert Beltran, who was Chakotay on Star Trek Voyager) whom he rescued on his most recent solo operation. McQuade, his recently retired mentor Dakota (L.Q. Jones), Ramos and later an FBI agent named Jackson (Leon Isaac Kennedy) proceed to get swept up into a scheme to stop martial artist gun smuggler Rawley Wilkes (David Carradine) from running weapons stolen from the US military to Mexican cartels.
What follows is a strange set of events where McQuade beats up thugs, falls in love with Lola Richardson (Bond Girl Barbara Carrera), the widow of Rawley's old partner, meets another of Rawley's old partners, Falcon, a little person in a motorized wheel chair who owns a horse track and an office with supervillain touches, and eventually pisses Rawley off so much that the villain tries to kill and/or kidnap most of the people McQuade cares about (and does a pretty good job of it). This culminates in a shootout in Mexico where McQuade and his surviving allies hunt down Rawley to rescue McQuade's teenage daughter Sally (Dana Kimmell). Naturally it comes down to a brawl between McQuade and his headband vs Rawley in a white argyle sweater.
Director Steve Carver takes every opportunity to frame and shoot McQuade as heroically as possible. The rest of the movie consists of showing the rugged country side of the area around El Paso, Texas, and dudes getting beat up and shot by Chuck Norris. Some of them wear cowboy hats. Action scenes are generally entertaining in that Golan-Globus “we don't have squibs or fake blood” sort of way. The last fight between Norris and Carradine (and it IS Norris and Carradine, they insisted on not using stunt men for it) is actually pretty decent too.
Oh yeah, and this happens too:
Screenplay by B.J. Nelson, Story by H. Kaye Dyal & B.J. Nelson. Well, it's an 80s action movie script, so a lot of the characters are flat out archetypes and there aren't many surprises there. Yet still the movie manages to surprise by having said characters do unexpected things that make perfect sense given their personalities. McQuade driving his truck out of a makeshift grave is not something you see every day, and it does fit the character. McQuade himself is a stone-faced callback to Clint Eastwood's nameless gunslinger, but the side characters have a lot of personality, like Dakota, who drawls out all sorts of odd sayings.
Not much to say about the original score by Francesco De Masi other than it goes bombastic frequently enough but also nods back to Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks.
ConclusionLone Wolf McQuade is very much an 80s action movie. It moves briskly, gives you familiar character types, gives you lots of action sequences, bickering heroes, one-liners, and still manages to work in some surprises every now and then. It's a solid B movie.