I can see this one being the shortest review of the marathon yet as I’m sitting here trying to write and realizing I don’t have a whole lot to say about this movie. I fear it may have suffered from unfair expectations. Dating all the way back to when I was a kid, I remember a friend of mine saying that it was the bestest, most awesomest car chase movie ever but the VHS was impossible to find and it never aired on TV so I just had to take his word for it. I’m not sure how much of that was bullshit but it always stuck with me, though I still never made much of an attempt to see the movie. Now thanks to a Shout Factory double bill set with this and Race with the Devil, I was able to sit down and see the movie my friend raved about like 20 years ago.
I’m not sure what he was talking about.
Larry (Peter Fonda) is looking to be a NASCAR driver and Deke (Adam Roarke) is his mechanic. They need some money to get a kick ass starter vehicle in order to race so they extort some money from a supermarket (what an odd choice) by telling the manager that he either give them the money or they kill his wife and daughter. The plan is a success however when they go to make their getaway, they discover that Larry’s one night stand from the previous evening, Mary (Susan George) is sitting in the car and demands to come along with them. From there we get the occasional car chase but mostly bickering between Larry and Susan and then sometimes a helicopter happens as they are being chased by an obsessive sheriff (Vic Morrow).
The biggest problem I have with this movie is that there just isn’t a whole lot to it. Once the initial robbery is done, which is maybe 15 minutes into the movie, the rest of the run time is spent watching these three drive around, occasionally lose a cop, and bicker. The characters themselves are insanely one note and have no real semblance of an arc at any point. I think the arguing between Larry and Mary is supposed to be cute but it never felt that way to me as most of it is Larry calling her a dumb broad or saying he’s going to break all the bones in her crotch, a line which I admit did get a laugh out of me from sheer surprise. I also found Mary to be pretty irritating, not once buying that Larry would start to fall for her as the movie went on. Deke is probably the best character of the three but is relegated to the background for much of the film. So for the most part you’re stuck watching two unlikeable people fight as they drive around the woods.
Of course an action movie can still succeed with one note characters and minimal plot so long as it really makes up for those things in the actual action department. Not too long ago when I was running through my favourite movies of all time, I gave a shout-out to Commando, perhaps the ultimate example of a movie that has the absolute minimal requirements for plot and character development, but is so full of insane action that it really doesn’t matter. There are many other examples that fit this bill but I don’t think Dirty Mary Crazy Larry will be joining their ranks.
Once again, the words “action-packed” on a blu ray case have let me down as I would certainly never use those words to describe this movie. Had it instead said “Mediocre dialogue-packed” then absolutely, that would be an accurate statement. I was actually kind of surprised how little action there is. Occasionally yes a cop car does show up and gives chase and it usually results in a pretty impressive car stunt like flying off the side of the road and crashing through a sign. In these moments you get all fired up but then it’s over in a couple of minutes. I love me some 70’s car crashes so I really wish there were more of them here. The finale involving a low-flying helicopter is damn impressive though and easily the highlight of the movie. Again, I wouldn’t mind the lack of engaging action if the in between scenes were interesting but to me they really weren’t,
What was interesting to me though is the ending and while normally I try hard to avoid spoilers in these reviews, I think I have no choice but to talk about this one so be warned, the ending is about to be given away. After eluding the police helicopter, the sheriff begins to spout fake instructions to officers over his radio (which Larry and company are patched into) which causes Larry to drive in very specific directions. After a bit they feel they have successfully eluded the police and begin to celebrate. Then they promptly crash into the side of a train, the car explodes into a huge fireball so there is no question of them surviving, and then the credits immediately begin to roll. Jesus. Now that’s an ending that doesn’t fuck around. Granted yes in most of these car chase movies things don’t end terrifically for the lead character(s) but even still I didn’t quite expect something so blunt. So I will definitely give some credit for that.
I didn’t hate Dirty Mary Crazy Larry but it was a definite disappointment, largely thanks to a 20-year plus build-up that I can, perhaps unfairly, hold against it. Minimal action and uninteresting and often unlikable characters make this one watchable, but forgettable. It feels like a movie I should revisit down the road and see if my viewpoint changes with lowered expectations.