Lone Wolf McQuade (1983) – A Review
Chuck Norris is Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade who likes to work on his own. His attitude changes when a U.S. Army convoy carrying weapons gets hijacked and he partners up with Texas State Trooper Kayo Ramos (Robert Beltran) to solve the case.
Things are a bit more personal for McQuade when it’s his own daughter who is injured during this hijacking. The main culprit behind this criminal enterprise is martial arts master David Carradine. He’s a bad guy for sure! And what do you know, Carradine’s dishy female companion on his arm Barbara Carrera soon falls for McQuade.
There are major obstacles to overcome and a lot of baddies that attempt to get McQuade off the case, but he’s relentless and determined to stop Carradine once and for all!
Rest assured, many of the 1980’s action cliché checkboxes will get checked in this movie! Just check this out!
McQuade hangs onto a speeding car. The villain’s gal isn’t all that bad. Our hero’s loved ones are threatened. A car explodes. His friend is killed. He must go toe to toe with a the villain who seemingly looks like an equal physical match to him. The climax gets a jolt with rocket launchers and grenades!
Toss in a dwarf mobster in a wheelchair, the hero’s beloved dog getting killed, karate kicks, ugly looking baddies, McQuade’s boss outraged at his actions and a lot of destruction he leaves behind and you’ve got an entertaining Saturday night actioner with Norris in one of his best flicks!
This was somewhat a different role for Norris. Here he’s a beer swilling Texan. He’s rougher, more unkempt. Norris isn’t going for a role model type of hero here. It’s one of his best films.
I recently stumbled onto Norris’ 1991 film Hitman – and what a grueling experience that is to watch! Lone Wolf McQuade and The Hitman are on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Norris films.
Norris comes off more charismatic than usual. I never thought much of Norris’ onscreen persona. He’s the few words, quiet, hero who can quickly get into a punch out when needed, but I never felt he had the amount of commanding screen charisma to pull it off as well as some of his 1970’s/1980’s action contemporaries.
The action, kicks and punches he’s fine with. It’s when there’s no action going on when he just comes off rather blah and I never found him that interesting to watch.
Does he have chemistry with Carrera? Well, maybe Norris and her got along swimmingly on the set, but as for onscreen I don’t see any evidence of sparks.
Oh, I get their two characters are meant to have fallen for each other, that’s mainly thanks to a corny musical montage of them running around laughing spraying each other with a garden hose. If it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have suspected they’d even remotely like each other. Fortunately, there’s not a lot of focus on their relationship and it’s only a few scenes.
But really, how memorable are the scenes between Norris and his leading ladies in his films anyway? Those relationships aren’t the main takeaways from a Norris flick. They’re usually squeezed in between the action bits, provides him someone he must protect and walk off into the sunset with when the smoke clears. That’s their main function.
Here, McQuade’s daughter is used as leverage by Carradine and he must save her. See, I told you a lot of the action movie checkboxes get ticked!
Lone Wolf McQuade plays a bit as a modern day western. Sergio Leone fans won’t miss the homages in the visuals and music to his grand western epics that director Steve Carver plants throughout. There’s definitely an influence happening here.
Toss in some recognizable character actors to lend a hand – L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, William Sanderson, Sharon Farrell, John Anderson. Add a full runtime that keeps up its momentum and there’s not much to complain about.
It all works surprisingly well. For such a seemingly standard action film, that’s not trying to break the mold, it delivers on what the expectations are for the type of movie it wants to be and does it in an entertaining way.
The actors all deliver on their roles. The Texas setting and locations give things a distinct flavor. Even Norris, becomes a more compelling lone, intense hero than he often is in his other films. He lives up to the movie’s tagline of “When you’re the best, you do things with style”. Norris delivers on that pledge. McQuade becomes one of his most memorable roles.
And how can action fans not be drooling with anticipation for a slug fest between Norris and Carradine. The buildup to it is great. Come on, we all know it’s going to happen. The fight itself though….doesn’t live up to the expectations.
Supposedly, the two actors spent a long time choreographing it and were satisfied with what they came up with, but ultimately felt the way it was filmed hurt it. Maybe that’s the case. Whatever the reasons, it’s not as thrilling as I would’ve hoped for. This brawl between these two martial arts stars should’ve become a classic scene, but it ends up rather, “Ok, they had a fight.”
One other strange moment when it comes to how it’s filmed that always confused me is how exactly Norris escapes in one suspenseful scene. He’s shot, left in his Dodge Ramcharger truck and the bad guys push the truck in a hole and proceed to bury it.
Ok, we got a suspenseful scene happening here. How’s McQuade going to get out of it? Well, McQuade wakes up, starts his truck up and drives out of the buried hole. Huh?!?!
Maybe him screaming as he hits the gas helped out somehow.
I get he’s got a souped up, powerful truck but that moment always left me scratching my head. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an exciting scene and well put together, but I always thought it was a pushing things a bit too far. It’s one of those moments that probably helped cement Norris’ indestructible, macho status and inspired countless memes about him. I’m also betting fans who saw this scene instantly wanted one of these trucks and it helped with Dodge sales.
So the final fight between Norris and Carradine doesn’t end up being the cherry on top of a delicious action sundae that it should’ve been, but that’s my only real gripe when it comes to Lone Wolf McQuade. The rest of the time it satisfies your quench for a action packed Chuck Norris movie. It’s a fun popcorn actioner and remains one of his best.
The dazzling old school action trailer for Lone Wolf McQuade! How could audiences in 1983 not want to see this???
And check out McQuade’s amazing escape that the Fast & Furious crew could only dream of accomplishing.