Action-packed nonsense about an insurance investigator chasing a resourceful car thief, Speedtrap stars the jovial Joe Don Baker and features several noteworthy supporting players, plus oodles of ’70s trash-cinema texture. We’re talking artless photography, cheesy original songs, ghastly fashions, synthesizer-infused background music, and enough vehicular mayhem to fill a dozen Burt Reynolds movies. The characterizations are vapid, the story runs the gamut from stupid to trite to unbelievable, and the whole thing lumbers along for an unnecessarily long 113 minutes. In sum, if you take your ’70s exploitation flicks with a dollop of anarchy and a pinch of kitsch, Speedtrap might be your, well, speed. When the story begins, cops are baffled by a series of brazen car thefts, because the criminal uses a gadget to start car engines by remote, then steers them clear of prying eyes before hopping behind the wheel for high-speed getaways. Enter Pete Novick (Baker), a swaggering PI with adversaries and buddies throughout the police force. In particular, Pete shares a semi-romantic bond with a uniformed cop nicknamed “Nifty” Nolan (Tyne Daly). But never mind that, because like most of the story elements in Speedtrap, the relationship with Nolan is of little consequence throughout most of the film’s running time.
After the usual predictable clashes with police-department boss Captain Hogan (Morgan Woodward), Pete chases a few cars to no avail before enlisting the aid of his buddy, ace mechanic Billy (Richard Jaeckel). Meanwhile, the mysterious thief pisses off a gangster named Spillano (Robert Loggia) by stealing a car containing a suitcase full of drugs. More car chases ensue, leading to a series of goofy plot twists during the final act. The scene-to-scene continuity of Speedtrap doesn’t merit attention, and in fact the overall palatability of the movie is dependent upon each viewer’s tolerance for repetitive car-chase sequences. On the plus side, the action is virtually incessant, zesty actors spew campy dialogue during the rare occasions when the movie slows down, and Baker makes the whole thing feel like a party by wearing a shit-eating grin in virtually every scene. Watching Speedtrap will almost certainly cost you a few hundred brain cells, but if you dig what this ridiculous movie is selling, that might be a fair trade.