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Coy 'Cannonball' Buckman (David Carradine) decides to embark on an illegal race
from LA to New York to rekindle his flogging career as a frace driver - much to
the dislike of his girlfriend Linda (Veronica Hamel), who is a cop &
disapproves of the race because of her job, but she doesjoin him as co-pilot
anyways. Coy's brother Benny (Dick Miller) on the other hand places high bets
on him, totally trusting that Coy will win ... & to make extra sure, he has
found a few ways to help his brother along the way - which Coy is not
Coy's competitor's in the race are, among others, arrogant German Wolfe
Messer (James Keach), evil driver Redman (Bill McKinney), an extremely annoying
All-American goodie-good runaway couple (Robert Carradine, Belinda Balaski), 3
horny girls in a van & family man Terry (Carl Gottlieb) ... & then
there's Zippo, Coy's mechanic, best friend & greatest admirer, who all of a
sudden shows up in a red Trans-Am just like Coy's & identifies more &
more with his friend/idol.
Soon the race starts with all the usual cross coutnry race shenanigans,
& with Benny up to some evil tricks like blowing up Wolfe's car or wanting
to get rid of that other Trans-Am, but only having assaults made on Coy's
Coy also gets in to more & more crash duels with Redman - his only
serious competition -, which causes him to have Linda change to Zippo's car for
safety reasons. & Redman finally seeems to win upper hand when he destroys
the headlights of Coy's car, causing him to crash ...
Game over for Coy, is it ?
Nope, as Coy is fortunate enough that the towaway guys who take care of his
carwreck are 2 fanboys who just happen to have a racing car of their own in
their backyard, which they gladly offer to Coy. So the duel between Coy &
Redman is on again, & they go at each other's car pretty badly on a
highway-segment under construction before they both have to jump over a bridge
under construction - a jump that Redman fails to make, ending his race (&
life) in a big explosion).
Benny has meanwhile found out that Coy has a new car & the guy in the
Red Trans-Am is someone else ... so he hires someone to shoot that driver -
which would be Zippo, of course (though benny doesn't know that either). &
when Zippo is shot at full speed, his car crashes, leaving Linda badly injured,
but fortunately the All American couple happens to stop by & takes her to a
hospital, before that little accident gets completely out of hand when more
& more cars crash into the wreckage.
But who wins the race you may ask.
Is it familyman Terry, who took a plane from La to New York to avoid all the
troubles of the race & spent days & days of sex with his mistress
before driving over the finish line ? Nope, his mistress accidently betrays his
Is it the horny girls in the Van ? Nope, they ghet lost in Nwew York City
& have a slight accident.
Then how about Coy ? Well, he does cross the finish line first (except from
terry, but that was cheating), but when he hears about his brother's cheating
on his behalf, he refuses to stamp his ticket (which the winner has to do in
order to make his victory official), instead heads for the hospital to visit
Nope, of course it's the All-American couple that I always hoped would be
the first fatality ...
Paul Bartel's Death Race 2000
was a clever & successful attempt
to disguise political, macabre satire as an entertaining action-movie, his Cannonball
on the other hand was just a quickfire attempt to cash in on the previous
movie, even sharing the lead & having basically the same plot but with all
the political/critical subtext amiss. Instead this movie is just broad (but not
really funny) comedy which gets most of its laughs by having cars crashed
(which I, admittedly, do find entertaining), while all of the leads show
remarkably little in respect of comedy, leaving all the laughs for supporters
like the always dependable Dick Miller, director Bartel himself as betting
mogul, or Martin Scorsese & Sylvester Stallone in a very short but funny
sequence as mobsters. As it is, this movie does not differ at all from the
countless carcrash movies that Hal Needham would make for the majors only a
short time later (like the Smokey and the Bandit or the Cannonball Run-movies),
& that is not a compliment.
The involvement of Shaw Brothers, by the way, seems to have
been solely financial, neither has Cannonball the typical Shaw Brothers-feel,
nor any of the studio's actors or action remotely resembling the stuff Shaw
Brothers became famous with.