DVD Review: Sam Peckinpah’s Convoy

I’m always curious as to why it takes so long for certain films to be released on DVD. There’s a multitude of classics still unavailable on DVD – a medium that is slowly fading out itself. So whenever an old classic finally makes its way onto the small screen, I can’t help but be slightly intrigued to see what we had been missing. In the case of Sam Peckinpah’s Convoy, we weren’t missing a lot.

This 1978 feature – based on C.W. McCall’s novelty song of the same name – follows laid back trucker Martin ‘Rubber Duck’ Penwald (Kris Kristofferson) and his cohorts as they get tangled up with a corrupt Sheriff (Ernest Borgnine). In order to avoid prosecution they journey to New Mexico, but the Sheriff is not letting them go without a fight.

Convoy is essentially a rehash of Smokey and the Bandit and gains most of its inspiration from a novelty song – not qualities that we would expect in a feature from Sam Peckinpah – the man who had previously gave us such greats as The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, and Cross of Iron. Unfortunately, Convoy captures none of the charm and throwaway fun of the Bandit or the grit and technical precision of Peckinpah’s earlier work. It simply does not cut it as either a comedy or action film.

Unfortunately Convoy feels like a big costly mess. Bill Norton’s screenplay appears to be an ode to the open road and the beauty and freedom that it brings – but even that all seems a bit superficial and contrived. There is no real narrative pull, with Convoy essentially feeling like a loud and messy amalgamation of truck chases and walky-talky chit-chat that could have been jus as easily been directed by a studio hack and not a cinematic legend like Peckinpah.

The gravel-voiced Kristofferson feels utterly miscast in the Rubber Duck role. Kristofferson is a likeable actor, but the lack of both depth and light-hearted charisma on show here makes for a bland protagonist. Ali MacGraw’s ‘sophisticated’ photographer character does not fare much better – with The Getaway star fading into the background of Peckinpah’s noisy sideshow. The ever-loveable Ernest Borgnine does add some slight relief to the drab proceedings but the character proves too bigoted and caricatured to ever become likeable.

One of the redeeming elements of Convoy is a well-chosen soundtrack filled with iconic country hits – from Kenny Rogers’ Lucille to Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights. Crystal Gale, Billie Jo Spears, and Merle Haggard also make musical appearances. Whilst the narrative fails to add much fun to Convoy, the power of these country tracks is enough to breathe some life into Peckinpah’s ailing feature.

Not strange enough to be a cult classic, not fun enough to be another Smokey and the Bandit, and not gritty or thrilling enough to sit with Peckinpah’s previous releases. It’s hard to think of who Convoy would actually appeal too. C.W. McCall devotees? Truckers? It seems unlikely.


Stars: Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw, & Ernest Borgnine
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Release: 30/09/13
Cert: 15 (UK)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *