Theme Song: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Now let’s not forget (according to Wikipedia) Sylvester Stallone requested Survivor write this song for Rocky III. For some other movie to try to steal the song for their own use is beyond the realm of comprehension.
Interesting Dated References: Gary Busey when he was still interested in being a good actor instead of a parody of himself and reference point for people who think it’s funny to be ironic.
Best Line: Uttered by a bad guy in reference to an attack by Busey — “Never scratch dry shit.”
Social Context: The film briefly delves into some of the mid-80s crack hysteria, but we don’t see anyone freak out on it or anything, it’s just sort of mentioned in passing.
Summary: This movie is directed by the same guy that did the 70s Vanishing Point, Richard Sarafian. It is shot with some great direction and holds several innovative techniques and fine camerawork, so there’s no lack of talent here. But of course, it falls victim to many 80s action movie cliches. The first of which hampers the whole movie, and that is the use of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” as the theme song. What the fuck were they thinking? Did they think that the use of this song would usurp its use in Rocky III? Did they hope they would outshine that film?
The movie begins as we see Busey getting released from jail. As he leaves, he is accompanied by a fellow inmate (also being released) who is doing his best Tony Montana impression. It is prefaced that Busey saved his life in prison, therefore he tells Busey that whenever he needs him, he will be there. Busey turns down his offers for financial assistance and instead goes to visit the local sheriff, played by the always awesome Seymour Cassel. Through all their dialogue we learn Busey seems to have been wrongly accused and put in jail. Oh, and he’s a ‘Nam vet and one of his best friends is the also always awesome Yaphet Kotto. Between Busey, Cassel, and Kotto, this movie is no second-rate garbage.
So in typical fashion, Busey drinks a tall Coors can, reconciles with his family, and goes back to work as some type of construction guy. To clarify, they still haven’t specified why he was in jail.
All of these scenes are interspersed with shots of some anonymous biker gang running around on motorcycles. As Busey works late one night, he hears the bikers gang raping a nurse. He saves her, which causes Cassel to yell at him for “pulling vigilante shit.” Then he becomes a town hero and there are shots of the gang getting all pissed for the busting up of the gang rape. One of the guys in the gang is Randall “Tex” Cobb for those paying attention. Busey’s wife and Kotto then explain the bikers are drug runners who have taken over the town. Kotto asks Busey to back down.
Then in the next scene, 400 bikers invade and destroy Busey’s home and kill his wife. While in the hospital, Busey calls the Tony Montana wannabe in order to cash in his jail favor. ‘Nam isn’t really getting mentioned at all, yet the fact that the main character was a ‘Nam vet is featured prominently on the box to the movie. Perhaps the ‘Nam angle was a cash-in late in the game.
So then the really obvious biker drug gang shows up at the funeral and Busey and Kotto act all shocked. Did I mention Kotto has some type of pseudo-jerri curl/pompadour going on? Queue the synth-y 80s music to indicate bad intentions as we watch Kotto explain how the gang is dealing “crack” and how there’s nothing the sheriff can do about it. Kotto actually gives a good performance here (he’s incapable of giving a bad one) and this is the first time we hear a reference to ‘Nam. Kotto lets Busey know that if he stands against the gang, he’ll be standing alone. Oh, and all the soundtrack music to this movie seems to be riffs on the song “Eye of The Tiger” by Survivor. Confusing.
We next learn Cassel is in cahoots with the drug dealers. The Tony Montana pal delivers a Knight Rider-esque pick-up truck with all kinds of fancy colored buttons. Busey gets arrested, Cassel gets all racist on Kotto. Then Busey and Kotto do some battle with the local bikers.
Busey’s daughter is played by child actress Judith Barsi, who was later murdered by her father in real life. Busey interrupts a town bingo game and tries to stir the locals into taking action. He also brings up ‘Nam for the second time in the movie, which is way less than the Betamax box would make you think. Apparently the crack dealers are really mad at Busey for interrupting their rape of that nurse. So much so they are willing to kill his wife, all his friends and more, all in order to get their vengeance. While Busey is out getting a massage from the nurse, his daughter is abducted because the guards, et al, are dead.
In retaliation for having his daughter kidnapped, Busey sodomizes Randall “Tex” Cobb (who happens to be in the hospital) with a lit stick of dynamite! This movie just went onto some next-level shit. After the sodomy, Busey jumps in a truck with Kotto as the opening riff of “Eye of the Tiger” starts up. Busey discovers the crack dealers’ large compound where he clearly sees his daughter in a cage.
Meanwhile, Yaphet Kotto gets all Red Baron Pizza on the crack dealer compound. Busey rides around in his semi-Knight Rider pick-up truck and shoots stuff. These action sequences make no sense. The crack dealers also have their own army. Kotto lights dynamite, then 10 minutes later we see an explosion we are supposed to think is from the dynamite. Wowo this movie just keeps going and going. Busey abducts the sheriff (Cassel) and returns him to the crack dealers, who then blow the truck and Cassel up. This leaves Busey free for some type of final revenge fistfight. It lasts like 10 minutes and includes homosexual undertones, cocaine, boom mics, and some type of Yaphet Kotto black power army. Once Busey wins, the all-too-familiar chords of “Eye of the Tiger” blaze up and the crack dealers run off into the sunset.
Poster and Box Art: This is a classic illustration for a revenge poster. It’s well done and surprising it doesn’t feature more airbrushing. However, if you want a perfect example of why the world used to rule and why it sucks now, check out the cover for the DVD box. The world used to be an honest place. Now it’s just filled with liars, slanted fonts, and wind-blur effects. Soulless.
Availability: Believe it or not, Eye of The Tiger is actually out on DVD. I can’t quite explain this.