Directed by: John G. Thomas
Starring: Dean Stockwell, John Shepard, Charles Dierkop, Marylou Kenworthy, Dawn Schneider, and Billy Drago
Now free to take down the speeding suckers his own way, he goes undercover to infiltrate the shadowy world of Banzai Runners. While there, he comes face to face with Syszek (Drago), the evil ‘Runner. Now with Beck at his side, and their girlfriends (Schneider and Kenworthy) more or less against them, the time has come…will the Baxters put an end to all this Banzai Running once and for all?
Banzai Runner was a pleasant surprise and part of the reason why continually hunting down 80’s VHS tapes is still worth doing. Is the movie an earth-shattering experience that will forever change the way you look at life? No, but most movies aren’t that anyway. What Banzai Runner is is an unpretentious, enjoyable gem and a worthwhile way to spend 90 minutes or so.
As some sort of cross between Midnite Spares (1983) and No Man’s Land (1987), Banzai Runner is a fast-cars-vroom-vroom movie of the type that the male gender is always accused of loving above all others. There’s actually a little more going on here than that description would imply, but it would be nice if Banzai Runner was given a bit of credit for being a precursor to the Fast and Furious franchise – and all at a tiny fraction of the budget of those blockbusters.
It all starts with an appropriately high-speed intro, but the presence of Dean Stockwell as the main character gives the film some grounding and gravitas. The whole thing has kind of an off-kilter, unusual vibe that we really liked. It’s really the type of movie you can’t do today, and that’s a shame.
There is some really cool and catchy music on the soundtrack too, including by a band named Los Bad Jamming Gringos, who sound like a slightly more aggressive ZZ Top. The score itself isn’t bad, but it would have been perfect if it had a Tangerine Dream-style synth score. To date, neither the score nor the soundtrack songs have been released on any format, which is unfortunate.
It was the go-go 80’s, so of course there are going to be movies about fast cars and fast women and all that. But the organic, straightforward, and almost unassuming charm of Banzai Runner make it worth seeing.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty