Hicksploitation was a drive-in staple throughout the 1970s, since these rural romps were low-budget, action-packed and filled with good-ole-boy humor. This misguided hodgepodge only managed to nail one of them -- it's excruciating cheap. The sole feature from writer-director Michael Adrian, set in Texas but obviously shot in California, it's centered around an altruistic do-gooder who sidesteps the system in order to be a small-town hero. Unfortunately, its creators didn't seem to know exactly what kind of film they wanted to make, just as its distributor couldn't settle on one title, since it also played in the US as BREAKING LOOSE and SPLIT SECOND SMOKEY, and in the UK as THE CHOCOLATE KILLERS and EVERYDAY HEROES... Frank Pellet (Rod Browning) is a Stetson-wearing idealist who's continually getting into trouble for impersonating a cop (e.g., ticketing speeders, since the local police don't bother) but gladly serving his jail time when caught. Teaming up with his gadget-wiz pal Sidewinder (Robert Chapel), the two become full-blown vigilantes by shooting thieves who're threatening defenseless women or saving children from burning buildings, with Frank doing all of the dangerous physical work, while Sidewinder (wearing a child-sized Lone Ranger mask) receives the publicity. Law enforcement is also currently searching for the elusive "Chocolate Killer," who has slaughtered several young women, all virgins, by viciously slashing them to death and smearing their corpses with chocolate ice cream. The police are woefully inept, and although Frank and Sidewinder may not be the brightest pair, they have good intentions. Of course, there also needs to be a shifty authority figure for the audience to hate, with the District Attorney (Milt Kogan) convinced that Pellet is this murderer and recruiting a big-city S.W.A.T. team to haul him in. The film's first half boasts broad performances and a laid-back tone, only for this lightweight comic escapade to abruptly veer into horror-movie mode when focusing on the psychopath and his victims. Meanwhile, its handful of obligatory car chases are more flaccid and slapdash than usual for this sort of cut-rate fare. Browning (best known at the time for a stint on the daytime soap ONE LIFE TO LIVE) is such a flavorless lead that I'd have difficulty picking him out of a police line-up only 10 minutes after finishing this film. Supporting players include Hugh Gillin as Pellet's sheriff brother-in-law, Michael D. Roberts (THE ICE PIRATES) is a deputy, plus Tabi Cooper helps out the duo by agreeing to be bait for the killer, which goes about as badly as you would expect. With cinematography by Michael Mileham (BLACK SHAMPOO) and music by Don Peake, the same year that he composed the soundtrack for THE HILLS HAVE EYES.
© 2022 by Steven Puchalski.