Lone Wolf McQuade (1983) – Directed by Steve Carver – Starring Chuck Norris, David Carradine, Robert Beltran, Barbara Carrera, Leon Isaac Kennedy, L.Q. Jones, and William Sanderson.
Even though I’m reviewing LONE WOLF MCQUADE as part of Western Month, it’s not a Western in the classical sense. Instead, MCQUADE is a contemporary Western-slash-martial arts-movie-slash-standard-’80s-action movie. Director Steve Carver soaks his film with a Western score that might as well have been taken directly from an Ennio Morricone compilation, and the end result is a mildly effective mix of genres.
I mean, look, it’s an awful movie in a traditional sense, but it’s not an awful Chuck Norris movie, and it’s the film that inspired Norris to make Walker, Texas Ranger, so we owe/”owe” it that.
I’m being honest when I say that I just don’t get the appeal of Chuck Norris. He has no personality, he’s a terrible actor, and I don’t like or care enough about martial arts movies to know if he’s really any good at the punching and kicking. He is perhaps the most unintentionally brilliant camp actor of all-time, but I don’t think 1983 audiences were going to his movie on that score, so I’ve chalked Norris’ appeal up to being something I just don’t understand.
Norris plays J.J. McQuade, a “lone wolf” Texas Ranger who doesn’t want to partner up with anyone – including his new partner, the Texas State Trooper Kayo Ramos (Robert Beltran). We know McQuade is a real American hero because when he attends a fancy event and they tell him they don’t have any domestic beer, he passes on the Heineken and Dos Equis. Had the Most Interesting Man in the World emerged at that moment to kick his ass, we might have had something.
But he doesn’t.
We know McQuade is a bad ass because he drives a dirty Dodge truck that, for some unspoken reason, is a super truck. It’s got some crazy boost system that allows him to rocket down the highway. He gets buried inside the truck deep in the movie and after he pours beer on himself to wake himself up after getting the crap kicked out of him, drives the truck out of the ditch.
Where, let me repeat, he was buried. Under dirt. God F*cking Bless America.
We also know he’s a bad-ass because he lives in a crummy, ramshackle house outside of the city with a wolf.
Yep. With a wolf.
You also know he’s a bad ass because he shows up to a retirement ceremony all dirty from his latest bust and proceeds to take a nap. And hiss boss hates him because McQuade doesn’t fit his idea of what a Ranger “should look like,” and we know from every cop movie ever made that if your boss hates you, you are totally awesome.
The film doesn’t just want McQuade to be an All-American Bad Ass, however; it wants McQuade to have feelings. He loves his daughter (they even share an awkward lip-to-lip kiss), and she loves him, proving he’s a good dad. Even though he’s divorced from his wife, they’re still friendly, proving he’s a good divorcee. He takes his daughter horseback riding, where he ogles Barbara Carrera, and then he just leaves with the new hottie, apparently abandoning his daughter at the track, which proves he can be a bad dad, but an understandable man. When the bad guys kill his wolf, McQuade is so overcome with grief that he pounds his fist into the dirt, then picks the dead dog up.
The bad guy is David Carradine. He has a name (it’s Rawley) but names aren’t really important in a film like this because you spend the whole movie waiting for Norris and Carradine to fight. Carradine is wonderfully awful as the would be kingpin who’s also really good at martial arts. He also has a personalized license plate that reads, I sh*t you not, “CARATE.” He’s making it with his ex-partner’s widow, Lola (Barbara Carrera), who’s the movie’s eye candy and leads to the best line of the movie. McQuade’s best pal in the Rangers is the just-retired Dakota (L.Q. Jones), and they’re watching Lola ride a horse. Dakota asks McQuade: “How’d you like to bite that in the butt, develop lockjaw, and be dragged to your death?”
McQuade apparently thinks this sounds like fun because he grins. I think it sounds awful. (What if she’s a farter? Do you really want to die with your mouth clamped onto someone’s ass cheeks?) Lola and McQuade end up spending time together, but when McQuade comes home to find Lola cleaning up his sh*thole house, and then discovers she threw away his beer and replaced it with vegetables, McQuade flips his lid. “You’re killing yourself!” she wails after he tells her, “If I wanted my house clean, I’d get a maid!”
Right, because a maid would be better than Barbara Carrera.
And let’s be honest. I might not understand the appeal of Chuck Norris, but he walks around with his shirt off quite a bit and he doesn’t look like a guy letting himself go. If he’s living on a diet of cheap beer and kicking bad guys teeth in, then I’d say it’s working.
McQuade’s daughter ends up getting kidnapped and that leads to a big fight and it looks like Norris is appropriately taking this as the most important thing EVAH. In contrast, Carradine looks like he’s ready to hang out and smoke lots of weed; he’s just got to take care of this punk b*tch first.
They build up to a big fight scene and it’s really pretty average, but then, I don’t know much about martial arts so who knows if it’s actually good. It looks slow and clumsy to me, and Carradine looks silly wearing his yellow sweater and Norris looks silly in his bandanna and vest. His daughter gets shot in the leg, which inspires him to go kick ass, and then Carradine backhands her and that inspires McQuade to overcome his injuries to kick even more ass.
McQuade learns to team up with the FBI and state police, and they learn to let him kick ass.
Everybody wins. Except for maybe the audience.