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The Nostalgic Attic: Six Pack (1982)

4 July 2014

Six Pack (1982)

"Kick his ass, Brewster! Don't take that shit from this fungus faced toad sucker!"

Recovering from a car crash that almost put him off the road permanently, rugged, bearded, Brewster Baker (Kenny Rogers; Kenny Rogers as The Gambler) sets out on the trail of a comeback, taking him on the road towards the the racing circuit and back into the spotlight after his dramatic drop out. Unfortunately for him, he stops off in a small, hicksville town and has a bunch of parts stolen from his car strapped to the back of his motor home. Only a short time later, he catches the same van ripping off what's left of his vehicle, which he takes off after in his motor home. He manages to run the culprits off the road and makes a startling discovery: the criminals are a bunch of kids.

After fishing them out and saving the life of the youngest, Brewster finds himself stuck with them as he attempts to get his parts back. Led by the plucky young Breezy (Diane Lane; Streets of Fire, The Outsiders), they bring him back to the house where they live, and Brewster is shocked to find that there are no parents. Soon after the sheriff (Barry Corbin; The People Across the Lake, Critters 2, Stir Crazy) shows up; it seems he's involved with the kids, making them do the thieving so he can kick up a profit. His deputy promptly pistol whips poor old Brewster, and they throw him in a cell. The kids decide to bust him out, and before he knows it, Brewster is back on the road, with a bunch of wild orphans in desperate need of a father figure in tow.

The gang quickly set up as his pit crew, helping fix his motor problems and usually landing him in much worse ones. Along the way they catch up with Brewster's old squeeze, Lilah (Erin Gray), working bars and fighting off kisses from guys in stetsons with floppy moustaches. They also bump into Brewster's arch nemesis, the sleazy Terk (Terry Kiser; Weekend at Bernie's, All night Long), the man responsible for the accident that nearly killed him in the first place. The heat is on as Brewster gets selected for the the big races, but will the evil sheriff catch up on him and the kids? Will Terk sabotage his car again and beat him past the finish line? Will Brewster finally decide to settle down in life with his woman? Will the kids get a place to call home at the end of it all?

Six Pack is the kind of light-hearted fluff that used to get played throughout wet Saturday afternoons on TV, or the kind of film your mother rented for you when the gory looking horror tape you had in your hands wasn't going to make it to the rental counter. In fact, it seems to really sum up those hazy days, growing up and watching the same films over and over; the tropes are so familiar you may as well have seen it a dozen times,  though it doesn't mean that the familiarity isn't welcome. The plot keeps strictly to the tried-and-tested underdog story, you know that Brewster is going to kick asses by the time the credits role, you know the kids will all end up happy, and you just know Rogers' bearded face will be slobbering all over the lady in the final frames.

This familiarity is what helps pull you into a film like this; sure, it's nothing particularly great or memorable, but it's almost like a comfort blanket. What helps make it stick out though is that the bunch of kids are actually well portrayed and interesting. They are a solid mix of 80's riff-raff; big on swearing and laughs. Sure, the message might be trite and obvious - 'kids just need a mum and dad!' - but you will enjoy seeing this rowdy bunch stealing cars and sticking it to the gormless adults. It's helped by the fact that they got some talent in for the youngsters. Lane really sticks out in an early, pre- The Outsiders and Rumble Fish role, doing a fine line of innocent and jail bait when needed. She gets to showcase some solid acting chops in a few emotional scenes, which no doubt helped her fight for a well-deserved place among the brat pack elite. The other recognisable face is Anthony Michael Hall as Doc, the technology wizard in the gang. This was a couple of years before National Lampoons Vacation and Sixteen Candles, and he does a great job of sticking out from the crowd.

It's just a pity then that Rogers isn't as good a match for the lead as the kids were for their roles. Sure, he's likable enough as a grumpy oaf, but you can't help but wonder what the likes of Burt Reynolds would have done with the role. A producer clearly had a boner for Kenny, though, and that's what we are stuck with. He isn't terrible, but he has to carry the weight of quite a lengthy film on his shoulders. The supporting cast is game enough, though, with Kiser doing a great job as the bad guy, and Corbin is excellent as always in his role as the sheriff. 

So how does it stack up as entertainment? Pretty well, actually. There are a few car chases and action scenes, all of which are shot well with that classic 70's feel to most of it. The humour works in most cases, with the potty-mouthed kids getting the best lines. The climax involving the Nascar race looks great, and was apparently shot at the real event. There are plenty of other great moments, such as when the kids rig up the police car to fall apart, or when Brewster is set on by a gang of thugs hired by Terk. The man may look like a beer bucket, but he slugged it out well on screen.

As mentioned, the film runs a little excessively long, but it boils down to the script. The 2nd act stretches on quite a bit, with a lot more drama than you might expect from the poster art. Much of this involves Lane and Rogers, but at least Lane is fit for it. Six Pack was directed by Daniel Petrie, who had a long career in TV before knocking out the likes of Fort Apache The Bronx and Cocoon 2.  He does a great job here, actually, especially with keeping his younger cast in check and wrangling performances from everyone else. He had a good eye for action, so it's a pity he didn't do more in the genre. Rogers delivers the title tune on the soundtrack too, and it's fairly catchy. I'm no country fan, but the music fits the tone of the film well. You get plenty of other country tracks scattered throughout the film (mainly in the bar scenes, which feature some serious beards and hats) but the track, 'Love Will Turn You Around' is what this one is remembered for. 

You could do worse than sit down to a few hours of Six Pack, especially if you are in the mood for a 'wet Saturday afternoon' kinda film. It has plenty of laughs, a bit of action and some drama, and if you can get past Rogers' ho-hum performance then you will have a good time with this. Don't let my complaints put you off, though, sometimes it's OK to see a completely predictable film - that comfort blanket definitely needs an airing every now and then. 

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At 6 July 2014 at 04:11 , Blogger Wes M said...

John one of the things I love most about this blog is the uncanny knack it has of leading me to dusty, abandoned rooms of my memory and letting me step thru the door... When I first glimpsed this post my first thought was that you had dug up another unseen obscurity from the 80's but as I read thru the piece I realized with some considerable delight that I actually saw this film many, many years ago, maybe even in the same circumstances as you first saw it - I don't recall any scenes, but like something like The Sheriff and the Satellite Kid or Eliminators, I know I have seen this film ! Great call on Burt Reynolds - it is the perfect Reynolds part alrite, and I reckon the film would have been offered to him for sure. I wonder what Sam Peckinpah might have done with it ? I'm thinking of other country singers in films - and I'm no expert of anything country, but there's Kris Kristofferson right away in Pat Garret & Billy the Kid, Heaven's Gate, and a fantastic little sleeper from 1972 entitled Cisco Pike, where Kristofferson plays a down on his luck LA musician who turns to drug dealing (with cop Gene Hackman on his tail), there's Lyle Lovett as the psychotic cake maker in Short Cuts, and Willie Nelson, appeared in Michael Mann's Thief as a wise old ex con. I think Six Pack is Kenny Rogers' only theatrical film among a bunch of dreary sounding TV movies, so this is one to savor for Gambler fans... Incidentally, have you seen Rogers lately ? Another plastic surgery disaster as The Dead Kennedy's might say...

At 6 July 2014 at 05:49 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks Wes, glad this spot can help jog those long-dormant memories! I have no idea when or how I first saw this either, but now that I re-watched it, it's like it has always been there...By the time '82 rolled around, Reynolds might have been sick of this sort of fare... who knows. It was a big hit, though, and I too was surprised to see it was Rogers' only big screen appearance. I've never seen any of his 'The Gambler' films, but I have no intention of doing so! Peckinpah might have been a good choice, but I knoestly don't think the direction is bad here at all. And I doubt the studios would have let him anywhere near a cast of minors! I have been meaning to re-watch his last cinematic entry, The Osterman Weekend, as it has been about 16 years since I last saw it. I have the VHS here and all, just waiting for the right time to pop it in. Incidentally, I haven't seen Cisco Pike, but it sounds excellent. Will chuck it on the list!

Kristofferson was great in Pat Garret & Billy the Kid, as he was in Peckinpah's most underrated 'great' film, Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Country-singer-turned-actor is a strange one though, but I guess Dolly Parton made a good go of it? At least she had comedy timing and an ample chest to get her through her roles.

Oh man, I just googled Rogers and 'plastic surgery'... why oh why do people do this? I can't wait to be old and haggard looking,I'd much rather a face full of character than one that gives children nightmares.

At 7 July 2014 at 20:08 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I have never seen this movie - but there's so much to say in spite of that! This does indeed seem like it might have been put together with Burt Reynolds in mind - but he was in the midst of trying not to make movies like this - working instead on movies like Paternity, Best Friends, and The Man Who Loved Women. When those movies didn't burn up the box office through 1982 - he went back to car comedies in 1983 (Stroker Ace) and 1984 (Cannonball Run II) - but here's the wildest part of all this Burt Reynolds/Six Pack tale - it is rumored that he does an uncredited walk through on Six Pack (!)

Both you and Wes give the Gambler TV movies the bum's rush - but they're not bad - with the fourth one surprisingly the best of the bunch as it brought back scads of American TV western heroes in supporting roles and cameos - people like Chuck Connors (The Rifleman) and his TV son Johnny Crawford; Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick; Clint Walker as Cheyenne, David Carradine as Caine; Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp, and Gene Barry as Bat Masterton. You guys might not be into Westerns - but this is dream show if you like "reunion" style shows where people come back to their old roles.

Now, as to Kenny Rogers' new face - yeah, it's pretty bad. Andy Richter - who was late night talk show host Conan O'Brien's sidekick on his first show - was sitting next to guest Kenny Rogers on the couch, and he says he could see bearded skin BEHIND Kenny's ear - where it had been stretched beyond belief. (shudder)

At 8 July 2014 at 01:41 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks for the post, Craig, that's fantastic on Reynolds and his alleged walk through! When you do watch this one (I think it'll be your cup of tea) you'll definitely get that Burt Reynolds vibe from it.

I figured you might have seen The Gambler films, so was waiting for your insight there... which is unsurprisingly a little more level-headed than my thoughts. I think TV movies might have worse reputations over here with us, as these might have popped up on TV at some point, but were usually released on VHS, and you would be very disappointed after watching what you hoped was going to be a full blooded action movie, only to discover it 'felt' like a TV movie. Nothing worse than being ten and feeling tricked! I am actually quite a big western fan, so what you have described sounds interesting. I was basing my judgement on the back of Rogers and his lacklustre performance in Six Pack... but I guess he would have had to improve?

ugh, yuck... that is revolting. These are probably the same kind of people that have themselves frozen in the hopes of a cure for 'old age' appearing 100 years from now... I'm a firm believer in age gracefully!

At 8 July 2014 at 20:01 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

Well, let me back off a bit on the Gambler movies - I only really like the fourth one - although the others are okay on a toned down "TV movie" scale. And Kenny has never really been an actor - unlike singers like Dwight Yoakum and Reba McEntire - who really can act - he's more a "personality" on screen in the TV movies - but the supporting casts help him through.

At 9 July 2014 at 06:25 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Yeah, the support in Six Pack definitely got him through it, in fact, most of the younger cast knocked him out of the park. Still, I'll keep an eye out for the 4th The Gambler movie, if I get a chance to check it out.


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