Directed by Tom Laughlin
Produced by Frank Capra, Jr.
Written by Tom Laughlin & Delores Taylor
See, it’s one thing when Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) goes into a two or three minute monologue about how he’s gonna kick ass and takes his time removing his socks and boots before doing so. Given the conventions of an action movie, we go along with it for the purposes of suspending our disbelief for the duration of the time we are willing inhabit this fictional universe. But when we have JEAN ROBERTS (Delores Taylor) also going into the ritual of removing her socks and boots before kicking ass…well, you done lost me.
And don’t get me wrong. We have seen in the previous movie; “The Trial of Billy Jack” that Jean has been studying hapkido under the tutelage of Bong Soo Han himself, renowned as the ‘Father of Hapkido.’ So I would expect that between that movie and this she has achieved a level of proficiency where she can certainly handle herself if attacked. But removing off her socks and boots while her opponents, all of them trained CIA killers who have knives in their hands assigned to kill her but patiently wait for her to get herself ready to beat their asses…nah.
But then again, this isn’t the first improbable thing that BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON wants us to accept. For many years this was the red-headed stepchild of the “Billy Jack” franchise. It only had a very limited theatrical release and really has only enjoyed a wide viewing availability on DVD and via cable/satellite channels such as The Sony Movie Channel which is where I saw it. And for good reason. Whereas “Billy Jack” is a supremely good movie to watch and “The Trial of Billy Jack” is worth watching if you know what you’re getting into, BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON is worth forgetting.
Through a series of events that are far too complicated for me to relate here in this review as I try and hold them down to a thousand words or less, Billy Jack is appointed a United States Senator to fill out the term of a Senator that has died. Billy Jack quickly decides to use his new found power to propose a bill to fund a national youth camp. Unfortunately for him that land has already been earmarked by the D.C. power elite for a nuclear power plant. Billy Jack counts on the help of an old family friend, Senator Joseph Paine (E.G. Marshall) to achieve this goal but Paine is under the control of Mr. Bailey (Sam Wanamaker) who holds no political office but does hold the balls of Senators and Congressmen in his pocket.
Billy Jack refuses to play political ball and decides to take to the Senate floor to get his message out. In a stirring filibuster in which we see that Tom Laughlin tries his best to invoke the spirit of Jimmy Stewart and grab an Academy Award attempts to save his youth camp and expose the evils of Big Corporation.
Now, don’t get me wrong…I fully understand that all of Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jack movies are his platform for his political views. And in the case of “Billy Jack” and even “The Trial of Billy Jack” I appreciate and understand what he did. Especially in the the case of “Billy Jack” which is a pretty damn good movie when taken on its own terms. But this movie? MEH.
My recommendation? Watch “Born Losers” “Billy Jack” and “The Trial of Billy Jack” and leave it at that. There’s an excellent reason why BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON was unseen for many years and it’s the best reason of all. It’s not a good movie. Even though it boasts A-List actors such as E.G. Marshall, Sam Wanamaker and Pat O’Brien it also give the spotlight to Lucie Arnaz. And in this movie she demonstrates that she has neither the looks nor talent of her parents and we can easily see why she never had a career to equal theirs.
But Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor are always watchable. They are these characters and that gives them a reality that’s worth watching. I did enjoy seeing Teresa Laughlin as Carol as I like seeing how that character has grown and developed from a folk-song singing kid in “Billy Jack” to being Jean’s unofficial second-in-command to the point that there are a couple of times in the movie where Billy Jack asks for her opinion instead of Jean’s.
But I can’t recommend BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON as entertainment unless you seen all the other “Billy Jack” movies and just want to complete the series. It’s too blatant an attempt to cram the political views of Laughlin and Taylor into their fiction and I can’t endorse the movie as entertainment.