Friday, March 10, 2017


    There are few more iconic American institutions than the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were founded in 1823, by the future president of the Texas Republic, Stephen Austin. They played a role throughout all of Texas' history and still exist today in spite of the pervasive political correctness to which all of our national institutions have succumbed.

     Our feature for this weekend is the story of a Texas Ranger, from 1983, Lone Wolf McQuade. It stars another American icon (and Trump supporter) Chuck Norris. McQuade is a lone Texas Ranger and Vietnam vet with an exemplary record who's compelled against bureaucratic obstruction, political correctness, and little popular support to do his job. Over his objections, he's assigned a partner, Kayo (played by Robert Beltran). Kayo is a cub whose training involves unlearning most of what he was taught as well as learning the realities of the job from McQuade.

    As is typical in an atmosphere of political correctness, ruthless criminal organizations flourish, and McQuade and Kayo soon find themselves up against a vicious arms and narcotics ring that doesn't hesitate to attack even the Army or federal agents. It's up to McQuade alone to finish the job, though he finds along the way a wonderful romantic interest in Lola Richardson (played by Barbara Carrera). Lola's character is quite interesting; she's at first the moll of the posturing and arrogant chief villain, but her head and heart are won by McQuade's genuine masculinity and she turns to him instead. Needless to say, this turn of events makes the battle quite personal between hero and villain.

      The storyline and general theme of Lone Wolf McQuade was a very popular one in the late 1970s to late 1980s---at the very end of Hollywood's run as a great entertainment medium. The theme is emblematic of a culture in its waning days: a middle-aged hero, often a loner, working for a once-great institution, with a lot of achievements in his background. These heroes are caught between two opposing forces: an encroaching politically-correct and self-serving bureaucracy on one side and a well-organized and utterly ruthless criminal gang on the other. Their love interests are typically alienated women who are attracted to genuine masculinity and don't run with the popular herd. The cultural message this all conveys is fairly obvious: and for this reason is hated by the modern Hollywood cultural elite. 

      Nonetheless, films of this era have never waned in their popularity with men. Besides Chuck Norris; Clint Eastwood, Fred Williamson, and Sylvester Stallone are associated with this genre. The reason these films have never lost their luster is because the social predictions they made largely came true; and many men today relate emotionally to the lead characters. J.J. McQuade has been through a divorce, butts heads with his superiors---yet still does his job because it's the right thing to do. The film has a brilliant angle here that's often overlooked by critics: there's an intergenerational dynamic at play. At the beginning of the film, McQuade attends the retirement ceremony for his friend and mentor, Dakota (played by L.Q. Jones) who, despite his 'over 2,000 felony arrests' is told by his superior, "I can't say as I'll miss you" at the celebration's ending. At the other end of the generational scale, McQuade has to train up the young cub Kayo, whom he has to rescue in the opening of the film. (Kayo appears at the end as a toughened veteran).

       As we would expect in a film where Chuck Norris plays the hero and David Carradine the villain, there's no shortage of action scenes. Actually Lone Wolf McQuade is a better-than-average film of this genre. The story is convincing, and there are several twists and a fair degree of suspense in the plot. McQuade's character lacks the unfeeling cynicism of some of Eastwood's portrayals, the 'superman' quality of Stallone, or the brooding, soul-searching type portrayed in Williamson's films of the era. McQuade is an archetypical all-American male; a tough guy with a tough job doing what he does best---without pretense or politics---and that is all. And that's what makes his character so alluring.

       The popularity of the film led to the television series, Walker, Texas Ranger, which ran on CBS throughout most of the 1990s.

        Lone Wolf McQuade is probably best seen on DVD, although it occasionally appears in some of the public-access venues.




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