A small group of truckers defy the authorities and head out of the state to avoid a speed trap imposed by a mean sheriff. Soon the group develops into a mighty convoy.
Kris Kristofferson plays the heroic driver (“Rubber Duck”) who thumbs his nose at authority and collects a disparate group of truckers for an epic journey across the US, which sees him cross the roadblocks of the sheriff “Dirty Lyle” Wallace (Ernest Borgnine), a rough, mean cop whose eyes blaze with hatred at the mere sight of a trucker.
Melissa (Ali MacGraw) is a smart, sophisticated photo-journalist who blows a gasket on her car, which leads her to become involved in the truckers’ fight for justice. She teams up with Rubber Duck and their association matures into something with deeper significance.
Among Rubber Duck’s fellow drivers is “Pig Pen” (Burt Young) who hauls a load of pigs, but whose cabin boasts a waterbed and a mirrored ceiling because Pig Pen likes to know what is going on during his many amorous adventures on the road. When he happens to pick up a nubile 16-year-old one day, though, he gets a good deal more than he had bargained for.
There is a female driver in the vast convoy. She is “Widow Woman” (Madge Sinclair) who is black and proud of it, and a man can expect from her either a hug or a crack on the jaw. The trouble is, he can never be sure which it is going to be.
The fight between the truckers and the law is long, bitter and extremely spectacular. Such as when the truckers decide to rescue one of their number from a stench-filled jail known as “Truckers Hell”. The trucks roar down the one-street town three abreast, wrecking everything in their path before driving into the jail on three sides, completely destroying it.
Or when the police set up an ambush to halt the convoy at a bridge crossing a swift-flowing river, when Rubber Duck is known to have a load of highly explosive chemicals on his truck.
It’s pretty lightweight fare for director Sam Peckinpah, but he builds an unstoppable momentum that makes you forget about the weak performances from Kristofferson and MacGraw.
Forget about the inanities of Smokey and the Bandit (1977), this film remains the epitome of trucking movies. The title song by CW McCall, which is actually the source of the movie, was a massive hit at the time.
“Rubber Duck” (Martin Penwald)
Sherrif “Dirty” Lyle Wallace
“Pig Pen” (Bobby)
Governor Gerry Haskins
Federal Agent Hamilton