Free spirited trucker Rubber Duck is pursued by traffic cop Lyle Wallace as he leads a convoy of trucks across the USA. The chase becomes a big media event and Rubber Duck becomes a counterculture rebel hero.
Even in the tiny genre of films based on songs (Ode to Billy Joe, Purple People Eater, The Crossing Guard), Convoy is a strange effort. C.W. McCall’s 1977 CB radio-themed novelty hit was just a collection of trucker slang, but here it is gussied up by Sam Peckinpah (no less) as a big rig reprise of The Wild Bunch.
Kris Kristofferson is perfectly cast as trucker outlaw Rubber Duck, while a wonderfully oversized Ernest Borgnine goes all out as ‘Dirty Lyle’, the ‘bear’ who hates ‘breakers’ and finally decides to call in the National Guard to help him enforce traffic laws with machine guns. The plot is almost invisible, with Rubber Duck and his breaker buddies just up and deciding to trundle their lorries across the Western States in a dash for Mexico (no one ever mentions delivering their loads to intended destinations) and becoming such a folk hero that the creepy governor (Seymour Cassell) tries to cash in.
Kristofferson and Borgnine were old Peckinpah hands, as is heroine Ali MacGraw (a characterless photographer) and sidekick Burt Young (‘Love Machine’ aka ‘Pigpen’), and there’s a lot of business about cops and outlaws who mirror each other, but the main attraction is the visuals – huge trucks rolling across desert roads in clouds of dust, police cars crashing through billboards, trucks demolishing a corrupt small town.
There are traces of road movie melancholia in the depressed cafes, jails and laybys where free spirits are broken, but it’s still mostly a cash-in on Smokey and the Bandit with a few rags of poetry tossed into the mix.
A noisy but enjoyable destruction derby of a film, sadly with none of the subtlety, invention or skill of Spielberg's Duel (1971)