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    Billy Jack:

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    MPol

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    Billy Jack:

    Post  MPol on Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:26 am

    Hey, folks:

    Can you all stand another movie review? This is not my alltime favorite movie, West Side Story, but another movie that I recently decided to get the DVD for out of our local public library and watch it on my computer. Since I tend to like action films generally, and also enjoy stories that deal with intergroup conflict, fighting, love, etc. all wrapped in one package, I decided, in somewhat dippy inspiration, to borrow the DVD of the film Billy Jack from the library. I have a DVD player built into my computer, but this particular DVD movie is pretty tough to come by. Although Billy Jack doesn't hold nearly the special place in my heart regarding movies as West Side Story, and it is somewhat campy in some ways, I rather enjoyed it. That saying, here goes:

    Set in the late 1960's, the movie Billy Jack is about a man who's half white and half Cherokee Indian, is an ex-Green Beret Viet Nam Vet and an expert at the Korean martial art, Hapkido ( which combines Tae Kwon Do and Aikido), who returns from the war to take solitary residence in the nearby Indian Reservation due to becoming more in touch with his Native American roots. He quickly becomes the heroic protector of the wild Mustang horses, the progressive "Freedom School" which is directed by a kindly teacher named Jean Roberts, and the Native Americans on the reservation.

    Meanwhile, during the movie, Billy Jack, Jean Roberts and the Freedom School members end up having much trouble with local town bigots, especially Sheriff Stuart Posner, as well as the Deputy Sheriff, Mike, whose pregnant and sick 15-year-old daughter, Barbara is being hidden at the school, who'd been found in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, after running away from home due to physical abuse by her father. Once more, when Barbara is flown home from San Francisco and is in her father's house, she experiences yet another beating after telling her father what's going on, runs away from home once more, and is found sleeping in an open field by Billy Jack, who helps hide her out at the school.

    At first, Posner's son, Bernard, seems like a person to be sympathized with after refusing to shoot any of the wild horses to sell as dog food meat for six cents a pound, the way his father wants him to, but after helping cause much trouble for the Freedom School in the hopes making his father proud of him, such as trying to hit on a couple of female students at the school with no success, harassing and physically abusing the Freedom School students when they go into town, especially the Native American students, raping "Freedom School" Director Jean Roberts, and then ultimately shooting and killing Martin, a gentle Native American boy who's befriended Barbara and taught her that there are other ways to obtain love than through easy sex, Bernard's character is obviously that of a person who deserves little to no sympathy, although he does admit to wanting to make his father proud of him, despite hating him.

    Mike, the Deputy Sheriff, as well as the Posners (father and son), and most of the townspeople, are quite bigoted against nonwhites and peace-oriented whites alike. The hatred emerges more and more as it becomes known that the Freedom School is not only open to kids of all races with problems of some sort or other, but is also a very unconventional school, with few rules.

    Meanwhile, in the wake of Martin's killing, Billy Jack ultimately gets his revenge, despite Jean's warnings of the possible dissolution of the Freedom School and harm to the kids. Billy then hunts down Bernard Posner, finds him making out with an underage 13-yar-old girl in a shabby hotel room on the edge of town, and warns the girl to get out, which she does.
    Bernard then tries to kill Billy Jack by shooting at him, and Billy Jack, in turn, kills Bernard with a karate chop across the throat.

    Billy Jack then hides himself and Barbara from the law in the old church on the edge of town. A shoot-out between Billy Jack and the law ensues, in which Barbara's father is shot dead by Billy Jack and Barbara is slightly wounded by gunfire. Despite a gunshot wound to the stomach, Billy and Barbara hide out in the church all night, before Billy Jack finally surrrenders to the law and gives himself up, under several conditions:

    A) That the Freedom School be allowed to run for the next ten years with no interference, with Jean beginning a ten-year contract as the school's director.

    B) That Jean Roberts have custody of Barbara and become Barbara's Legal Guardian.

    C) That an annual press conference be held by someone from the governor's office to report on the school's progress.

    The conditions are OK'd by Washington, and, after afew minutes of tearful hugs and good-byes between him and Jean, Billy Jack allows himself to be handcuffed and taken out to be tried for the killings of Bernard Posner and Barbara's father, Mike. Meanwhile, the kids at the Freedom School gather outside, to wave Billy Jack goodbye, with the Black Power raised fist signs, and many tears, to boot.

    I believe that the movie Billy Jack sends out a mixed message: that fighting back for survival in the face of lawless is necessary, and, yet, when lawlessness prevails, it begets more lawlessness, violence and corruption, and things go too far. Racism against the Indians is prevalent, and that, too, has led to tragedy and bloodshed.

    Tom Laughlin, who has written and directed this film, does a wonderful job of playing Billy Jack, the hero, while Delores Taylor (Tom Laughlin's wife), does an equally good job of playing the more pacific Jean Roberts, the director of the Freedom School. David Roya does a cool job of playing the cowardly but vengeful Bernard, who's the son of the town commissioner, Stuart Posner, who illegally advocates shooting wild horses to sell as dog-food at six cents a pound, and Julie Webb also does a good job playing 15-year-old Barbara, who turns out to be quite messed up, instead of growing and maturing. Nobody knows what happens to her in the end, however. The movie leaves it that way.

    The best scenes in the movie are when Billy Jack takes on a bunch of local toughs in the city park and uses his martial art skills on them in self-defense. The slowest and dullest scenes are at the Freedom School, where the kids either sing campy folk songs, or indulge in campy drama in the hopes of trying to make some sort of rapport with the townspeople, which, unfortunately, doesn't work, on the long run.

    I believe that the film Billy Jack sends a message; while it's necessary to fight back for survival in the face of lawless, violence, racism and corruption, things can ultimately end up going too far, as the killings indicate.
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    Brenkert 60

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    Re: Billy Jack:

    Post  Brenkert 60 on Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:47 pm

    When "Billy Jack" came out, it did very well at the boxoffice. It ran at North Star Cinema here in San Antonio for months. I liked it back then, but I saw it a few years ago on HBO, and couldn't sit through it. I have become a lot more conservative and some liberal propaganda was being pushed a bit too hard for my tastes.

    MPol

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    Hi, Brenkert 60. Thanks again for your input.

    Post  MPol on Mon Aug 17, 2009 5:52 pm

    While I'm still mostly liberal in my overall outlook, my outlook has been tempered somewhat with a substantial dose of realism, brought on by age, and having much personal contact with people whose points of view were different (sometimes radically so) from the ones I'd been brought up with.

    Regarding the movie Billy Jack, however, although I enjoyed it immensely when it first came out, and first saw it in the mid-1970's, I had a somewhat different perspective of this film when I recently watched on my computer back in April of this year. To me, the film Billy Jack is somewhat symbolic of what really and truly happened; people on both sides of the whole conflict ended up going too far, many of the kids, who were mostly white and middle-class, came up as spoiled, whiny brats, which made me think: Thank heavens the Flower Children are gone, because they helped, in no small way, to get this country into the mess that it's now in. Yet, the Conservatives went too far too, and eventually developed a more extreme form of conservativism, which still exists today. It's a complicated situation.

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