- Movie Rating -

Tank (1984)

| March 16, 1984

Tank is a movie that I didn’t like as much as I wanted to, but at the same time isn’t a movie that I can’t dislike as much as I’d like to.  I’m of two minds here.  It is one of those Man Against the Establishment movies about a guy who has been wronged by a cruel and unfeeling system but it cannot decide which way to go with it.

James Garner plays Command Sergeant Major Zak Carey who is stationed at a base I Clemons Georgia and is about to retire after years of commendable service.  He’s being given an offer of promotion, but he insists that he wants to retire in order to be with his youngest son Billy (C. Thomas Howell) because years earlier he lost his first son in a training accident.  While off-base one night, Zak meets a woman named Sarah (Jenilee Harrison from “Three’s Company”) and the two hit it off.  When she is hassled by the local deputy (James Cromwell), he strikes the man which the local sheriff (G.D. Spradlin) takes as a personal insult.  The girl, it turns out, is being prostituted by the sheriff and he sees the girl as his property.

Trying to have Zak arrested, the sheriff discovers that he has no jurisdiction to the military base and therefore arrests Billy, who attends school off-base, on a phony drug charge.  So, Zak gets his vintage Sherman tank out of mothballs and drives it up to the door of the police station demanding that Billy be released only to find out that the kid has been shipped to the county prison farm.  Of course, Zak busts Billy out of the prison farm and the two head for the Tennessee state line.  So, then this becomes one of those massive news events about a little guy against the system as they run afoul of the law on their way to victory. 

The story here sounds simple enough.  The good guy is really good and the bad guy is the scum of the earth with a desk job.  But I was a little dismayed by the uneven tone of the picture.  It is enough to keep the tank moving and for Garner to get to the state line but why did the movie have to gum up the works with a forced prostitution plot.  There are scenes here that are completely unnecessary such as an unsettling scene in which the girl is made to strip so that the sheriff can whip her naked behind.  Scenes like that seem out of step this movie which otherwise is kind of a wholesome action comedy.

What does work is James Garner who has always had a natural charm.  He has an ease on the screen that never feels forced.  He seems to have always been there.  And he fits easily into an Army uniform.  You can’t spot the actor in phony dress-up (I can’t say that about John Wayne) and when he throws off one-liners, they never feel forced.

Some trimming might have helped.  This is a good old-fashioned kind of action comedy with a wonderful performance by Garner.  I only wish they’d cleaned the movie up a bit, trimmed the fat and kept it on the right track.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Comedy