Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Rebel Rousers (1970)

Filmed in 1967 but shelved until 1970, The Rebel Rousers is a bland biker flick distinguished only by the presence of several actors who became famous after the picture was shot: Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton. Nicholson is barely in the picture, Stanton has a couple of amusing throwaway bits, and Ladd mostly shrieks or whimpers while playing a pregnant woman terrorized by bikers. Of the bunch, only Dern gets a part with dimension and size, though there’s not much he can do with the brainless material. He plays the chief of a scooter gang whose jackets bear Confederate flags (though none of the bikers sounds Southern). Yet his character’s behavior is befuddling, and one gets the sense of a rushed production inhibiting Dern’s ability to contribute his signature idiosyncratic flourishes—virtually every shot feels like a first rehearsal, or even a loose run-through, rather than a recording of fully developed performance. The threadbare plot revolves around portly architect Paul (Cameron Mitchell), who rolls into a dusty town and, by coincidence, encounters high-school buddy J.J. (Dern). Paul traveled to the town in search of his runaway girlfriend, Karen (Ladd), who fled during a rough patch in their relationship. Eventually, Paul’s car breaks down near a beach, at which point J.J.’s biker buddies menace Paul and Karen. J.J. tries to intervene, leading to power struggles within the gang. All of this is exceptionally boring to watch, especially when the plot degrades into a repetitive pattern of motorcycle races up and down the shoreline. There’s also a huge charisma gap separating Dern’s earnest performance and Mitchell’s drab work.

The Rebel Rousers: LAME

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