Still unavailable on DVD – presumably because it’s largely crap, although that hasn’t stopped a bunch of other largely crap movies blighting the good name of the digital versatile disc – the VHS cover of ‘Rolling Vengeance’ boasted the awesomely awful tag line “use the right tool for the job”. The job, in this case, being the despatching to redneck hell of some, well, right tools.
Here’s the set-up: Big Joe Rosso (Lawrence Dane) has just made his son Joey (Don Michael Paul) partner in his trucking business. Joey spends his spare time working on a rig he’s customizing for a forthcoming monster truck show. He spends a bit less time with his socially conscious girlfriend Misty (Lisa Howard). Misty is part of a Mothers Against Drunk Drivers action group who are targeting a titty bar run by the loathsome Tiny Doyle (Ned Beatty) and his equally loathsome sons. There’s friction between Joey and Misty given that Rosso & Son make deliveries for the Doyles.
(Anyone pegged the scriptwriter as a big fan of ‘The French Connection’ yet?)
One day, Big Joe’s wife Kathy (Susan Hogan) and the younger Rosso children are driving into town when Doyle’s sons, barrelling along in a pick-up truck and thoroughly intoxicated, start playing cat-and-mouse with her. Things end in tragedy as they force Kathy’s car in front of a truck driven by Joey’s sometime pal Steve (Barclay Hope). Kathy and the kids are killed outright. At the inquest, the whole thing’s declared a misadventure and Doyle’s eldest son Vic (Todd Duckworth) is given a paltry fine. Not happy with the outcome, Big Joey and Joey head over to Tiny’s bar and start a fight.
In retaliation, the brothers Doyle pull a dangerous stunt dropping breezeblocks from a freeway bridge which ends up with Big Joe’s truck written off and Big Joe himself hospitalized. Joey responds by customizing his monster truck as a huge-tyred armour-plated crushing machine and lays waste to Tiny’s car dealership (quite the entrepreneur is our Tiny). When Misty gets caught in the crossfire and assaulted by a couple of the Doyles, the stakes are raised and Joey goes all out for vengeance. Rolling vengeance. Yeah, baby!
Steven H Stern’s by-the-numbers revenge thriller was made in 1987 and every frame attests to it. Ditto the soundtrack, a motley collection of soft rock ballads, one of which chugs away over the inevitable montage. Here, it’s a montage of Joey wandering around a scrapyard and welding things together. Remember that scene in ‘The Full Monty’ where a supposedly terpsichorean study of ‘Flashdance’ turns into a critique of Jennifer Beals’s welding technique? Well, Jennifer Beals uses an arc welder like a Tyneside ship-builder compared to this flop-haired wannabe tough guy.
The Doyle clan – lorded over by Ned Beatty in turn that goes beyond scenery-chewing and into the realms of outright production design cannibalism – are one-dimensional losers. Beatty’s bouffant back-comb is perhaps the only genuinely terrifying thing about them. And even that’s put unequivocally in the shade by Lisa Howard’s fright-perm.
The narrative is an exercise in unimaginative tit-for-tat: the Doyles fuck over the Rossos, Joey cuts loose with the monster truck; the Doyles rape Misty, Joey goes on the rampage with the monster truck; Big Joe takes a turn for the worse in hospital, Joey drives the monster truck through the titty bar. Now, I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a certain guilty pleasure in watch shit get crushed by a monster truck, particularly when buck-toothed rednecks are included in the catch-all description “shit”. What I am suggesting is that said guilty pleasure wanes a tad in the face of repetition. Nor does it help that the monster truck itself looks like the bastard offspring of a portable toilet and one of those fuck-off big dump trucks they use in quarrying.
In other words, there are myriad scenes where someone exclaims, “Jeez, what the hell is that?” before trying to outrun it, a look of naked fear painted across their face, when the more realistic response would be to laugh like hell and enquire of the driver whether he’s overcompensating for something. After all, the right tool for the job and all that. Throw the industrial sized auger that comes whirling out from between the two front wheels (a device which has all the sophistication of Q Department headed by a thirteen year-old heavy metal fan) and there’s probably an academic study to be written on ‘Rolling Vengeance’ as a study in penis envy. Either that, or it just means the film’s a load of old cock.