Daniel DiManna
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Car-Sploitation Movie Spotlight: ‘Rolling Vengeance’

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A monster truck doing a sick stunt
Imagine this, but made out of a fire-spewing big rig. Yeah…
Photo: Jenni via CC

Back in the 1980s, North America was experiencing an obsession monster trucks. It’s not hard to understand the appeal; big loud things crushing smaller things can definitely be entertaining. The jump from dirt-filled arena to movie theater was an obvious move, and there have been plenty of monster-truck movies over the years. But how many of them involve a truck driver going full Mad Max on a bunch of boozed-up murderers operating out of a used car lot? As far as I know, only one: 1987’s Rolling Vengeance.

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A look at ‘Rolling Vengeance’

Taking a page from a certain aforementioned thriller about fast cars and revenge, Rolling Vengeance cranks things up a notch by introducing a monster truck into the mix. The film tells the story of a young truck driver named Joey who’s returning to his hometown. Unfortunately, things aren’t quite as he left them. The town is overrun with drunk drivers who answer to a sleazy guy named Tiny. Not only is Tiny the owner of what might be the world’s only combination bar/used car lot, but he’s played by the always-entertaining Ned Beatty.

Once home, Joey’s dad — also a truck driver — gifts him a brand new rig. Happy, Joey celebrates with his parents, his younger sisters, and his girlfriend. All seems well, which means that tragedy can’t be too far behind. Sure enough, the drunken hooligans run Joey’s mom and sisters off the road, killing them. A second attack leaves his father in a coma, and the thugs even attack his girlfriend. Driven by a thirst for vengeance, Joey converts his new rig into a gigantic, fire-spewing monster truck.

The best scenes in the film involve Joey using this insane vehicle to flatten bad guys and crush all the used cars on Tiny’s lot. The truck even has a deadly drill on the front for skewering villains. The carnage is very satisfying, especially considering this was before the days of CGI in movies. No digital trickery here; each and every crushed and exploding vehicle is real.

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While far from a great movie, Rolling Vengeance is a diverting little exploitation flick that’s sure to satisfy any fan of monster trucks and 80s cheese. The New York Daily News even described it as “the definitive monster-truck movie.” That has to count for something, right?