Billy Jack

Tom LaughlinUSA114 minutes197114AColourEnglish

In a small Arizona town, an interracial progressive school run by Jean Roberts (Delores Taylor) comes under threat from racist rednecks. When pottery, beading and improv workshops prove useless in fending off the increasingly violent attacks on the school, Jean and the kids turn to their only hope: Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin), a half-Cherokee Vietnam vet and martial-arts expert who teaches peace, tolerance and universal brotherhood by kicking people in the face. A bona fide cultural phenomenon, writer-director-star-messiah Laughlin's low-budget, independently-made mixture of New Left polemic, New Age spirituality and slick exploitation fare became an unlikely box-office blockbuster. A kind of Rambo for the Left, Laughlin's Billy Jack is at once a preacher of peace and a revenge-driven superwarrior; while the film brought Indigenous culture and beliefs to a wide audience, it couched them in a violent, comic-book revenge fantasy, making this both a progressive and regressive image of Indigenous peoples.