Vigilante Justice Among Our Neighbors to the North
DIRECTED BY: STEVEN H. STERN/1987
STREET DATE: NOVEMBER 14, 2017/KINO LORBER
Among the delights of having researched the movie Rolling Vengeance is the discovery that there is an entire genre of films called “Canuxsploitation”. And why not? We Americans stereotype Canadians as being always polite and deferential, a reductionist generalization, to be sure. But even if that stereotype was true, even the nicest people can enjoy some low budget mayhem. It’s cathartic. And you certainly get mayhem in Rolling Vengeance.
The basic premise of the movie is straightforward. Handsome young Joey (Don Michael Paul) works as a big rig driver alongside his dad, Big Joe Rosso (Lawrence Dane). Their idyllic family life is destroyed when a band of drunken, unevolved, sexually predatory locals first cause the death of Joey’s mom and two younger sisters. Then those same malevolent dimwits put Vic in a coma. Then they rape Joey’s girlfriend, Misty (Lisa Howard). You can see why Joey is ripe to exact revenge – and he does, in a custom built 8 ton truck tricked out with 7 foot tall tires, a giant drill, a metal cutter, and a flame thrower.
The packaging on Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of Rolling Vengeance boasts that this tale of “twisted emotion and mangled metal” cost the lives of “no less than 65 cars”. I tried to keep track and lost count. 65 seems high, frankly, but I’ll take their word for it. It’s certainly true that a lot of cars and truck are crashed, flattened, mutilated and torched. The carnage is impressive.
It probably goes without saying that the human body count is fairly high as well. And really, it’s the humans that make Rolling Vengeance a cut above many other films of its kind. Don Michael Paul is a handsome, inoffensive leading man. He and Lisa Howard both look like they could have walked off any college campus in 1987: they look right, and they are not terrible actors, which is nothing to sneeze at in exploitation cinema. Lawrence Dane, as the Rosso patriach, is a fine, seasoned Canadian actor and he brings real weight and believability to his scenes. He wastes a lot of cigars, though. Watch for it.
Tiny has difficulty keeping his other sons straight – which is hard to believe when they have made to order names like “Hairlip”, “Moon Man”, “Finger” and “Four Eyes”.
It’s the villains who really add zest to Rolling Vengeance, however. The tiny Canadian hamlet in which the Rossos live is blighted by a strip club/used car lot called “Tiny’s”, after the owner and proprietor, Tiny Doyle (Ned Beatty). Tiny wears a ducktail and leather jacket, and is the not-so-proud father of five sons who “work” with him (this work mostly seems to involve drinking his liquor and wrasslin’, but it suits their skill sets). The oldest son, Vic (Todd Duckworth), is Tiny’s favorite. He has difficulty keeping his other sons straight – which is hard to believe when they have made to order names like “Hairlip”, “Moon Man”, “Finger” and “Four Eyes”. Beatty is a hammy joy in this role, and the script gives him the best lines – many of them jokes about how dimwitted his sons are.
Both Mrs. Rosso and Misty are active in an anti-drunk driving organization, and the deaths of Mrs. Rosso and her children are attributed to drunk driving. But honestly, if this movie was all I had to go on, I’d think all Canadians drive like maniacs, drunk and sober alike. Joey and his buddy, Steve (Barclay Hope) play chicken in their semis. Joey intentionally rams the back of a pick up carrying the Doyle brothers. Even Mrs. Rosso, in the scene that ends with her demise, demonstrates the worst defensive driving I’ve ever seen on screen. But all of this leads to Joey’s rage, the construction of his “rolling vengeance”, and lots of spectacular vehicular homicide. How can Joey get away with it? You’ll have to ask the police lieutenant and James Coburn lookalike, Sly Sullivan (Michael J. Reynolds). Perhaps this community has been waiting for someone to clean up Tiny’s and the Doyle clan all along.
Kino Lorbers Blu-ray release of Rolling Vengeance contains an audio commentary by Paul Corupe of Canuxsploitation.com and film historian Jason Pichonsky. It also has an interview with Joe Rosso himself, Lawrence Dane, surveying his career and telling us how he got “inside” this character. Kino Lorber has a knack for packaging trailers in its bonus material, and the collection of exploitation trailers included with Rolling Vengeance is truly wonderful. Along with the Rolling Vengeance trailer, the disc offers trailers for Original Gangstas, Avenging Force, An Eye for an Eye, Steele Justice, COP, and Stone Cold Dead. I could watch trailers like that all day.
The images in this review are not representative of the actual Blu-ray image quality and are included only to represent the film itself.