Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)

The archetypical renegade Texas Ranger wages war against a drug kingpin with automatic weapons, his wits and martial arts after a gun battle leaves his partner dead. All of this inevitably culminates a martial arts showdown between the drug lord and the ranger, and involving the woman they both love.

In one of his very best vehicles, Chuck Norris plays Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade, a solitary man with his own way of doing things. In this tale he must do battle with a nefarious arms dealer, Rawley Wilkes (David Carradine). His boss tries to saddle him with a partner, nicknamed “Kayo” (Robert Beltran). J.J. is naturally resistant to this arrangement, but Kayo is determined to prove himself worthy. J.J. also finds himself another ally when F.B.I. agent Jackson (Leon Isaac Kennedy) shows his own willingness to not do things strictly by the book.

The decision by director Steve Carver (who’d previously worked with Chuck on the formulaic but fun “An Eye for an Eye”) and his filmmaking company to play this like a Spaghetti Western is an inspired choice. Carver directs with a real flair, the rural scenery is breathtaking to behold, the action scenes are extremely well executed, and the Chuck vs. Carradine title fight is an irresistible hook. Certainly one man who understands the tone of the whole thing is composer Francesco De Masi, whose score is just perfect.

What’s nice to see is that Carradine, who often slummed in B fare and basically phoned in his performances, makes for a truly effective villain here. He actually looks like he’s enjoying playing this over confident, egomaniacal creep. Much eye candy is supplied by the luscious Barbara Carrera, who has the role of Wilkes’s uneasy “partner”. Chuck and Carrera do have some sexy scenes together. Beltran is fine as the eager beaver young cop who is initially something of a nuisance but who will prove his worth by the end. Much praise goes to the uniformly solid supporting cast, including such luminaries as L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, Sharon Farrell, and William Sanderson. The lovely Dana Kimmell of “Friday the 13th Part III” fame plays Chucks’ frequently imperiled daughter. Daniel Frishman has the most delicious role in the picture as the diminutive crook Falcon; this is another guy who looks like he’s having a good time.

Rough, tough, and rousing, “Lone Wolf McQuade” makes for completely agreeable entertainment, delivering to us a finale that we can savour. Chuck and Carradine performed the stunts themselves, to the chagrin of the producers.

This would make a fine double bill with “Code of Silence”, another of Chucks’ best features.