The best thing I can say about this light entertainment is that I’ve always like James Garner, in any role. Here he’s a battalion sergeant major, which I gather is about as high as a non-commissioned officer can get in this man’s army. He happens to own a WWII Sherman tank which he has restored, even down to the ammunition. (Is that legal?) Anyway, he brings it along with his family to what he expects to be his last posting near some horrible redneck town in the south. He gets in trouble with the local, totally corrupt sheriff, and the result is that his son is framed for drug possession and sent to a prison farm.
The sheriff … remember the senator who sealed his fate in The Godfather, Part II, by disrespecting Michael Corleone at his Lake Tahoe estate? That was G.T. Spradlin, who plays the sheriff here. Every line out of his mouth is meticulously honed to make you just totally hate the miserable son of a bitch. And he plays it to the hilt. He delights in telling Garner that he will make sure the many degenerates at the farm will be having their way with the son every day. Naturally Garner has to break his son out. First he uses the tank to totally destroy the sheriff’s office. After that … well, it was never very believable, but it ends up going way over the top by the end. It loses any possible believability when “We the people” who have been following the chase to get to the Tennessee state line all work together to get the tank out of the mud, and the sheriff orders about thirty men to shoot to kill, in full view of a dozen TV cameras. Is anyone as stupid as that? Well, maybe in Alabama … though just today Alabamians rejected the monstrous Roy Moore as their next senator, so maybe there’s hope for them.
It’s always fun to see tanks rolling over cars and stuff like that, so I enjoyed that part. But I wonder how the producers felt nine years later when a crazed idiot named Shawn Nelson stole a much bigger Patton tank and rampaged through the streets of San Diego, crushing numerous vehicles before he was shot and killed by some seriously brave cops who mounted the tank and popped the hatch and shot him. Or Marvin Heemayer, who converted a bulldozer into an impregnable tank and destroyed most of the small town of Granby, Colorado?