Billy Jack Kicks Washington in the Face!
A senator dies and the governor decides to replace him with Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin). The governor hopes Billy will be a lame duck beholden to his new congressional colleague, Senator Payne (E.G. Marshall), because Billy Jack’s father was friends with Payne and Billy highly respects the man. Before he goes, Billy gets the okay from his spiritual leader who tells him that it is in Washington where Billy will finally find his peace. He goes, taking Jean (Delores Taylor) and many of the kids from the school with him. There he finds a corrupt cesspool of the rich and the exploitative. It doesn’t take long before Billy learns that he’s in way over his head and soon he comes into collision with the graft and political machine from his home state, a machine that owns Senator Payne lock, stock, and barrel. Before he knows it, this conflict gets him falsely accused of taking money and kickbacks and Billy finds himself embroiled in a fight that his feet and fists can’t save him from. Now he must lean on his own wits, on the help of Jean and the kids, and on the pure passion of his own heart. Can he clear his name and indict those who are truly guilty, or will he be just another victim of the Washington elite?
Billy Jack Goes to Washington is considered the weakest of the quartet of Billy Jack movies and that is easily the case. First of all, it’s a virtual remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, so a lot of the personality of the previous films is lost or drowned in a story that tries to shoehorn Billy Jack into a story where he really doesn’t fit. This ill-fit shows time and time again and is as uncomfortable to watch as it is to see Billy in a suit and tie trying to talk to politicians. However, there are some flashes that make this redeemable, and as with the other films, it’s in a far-too-few meandering moments where the kids are involved, and everyone seems to be riffing rather than following a script. Another thing that holds this back is the lack of fight scenes. It must have been hard figuring out a way to get the one main fight in there but they do pull that off. It’s fun to see Jean take her boots off and get into the action, and that flying kick she delivers is really spectacular. But the fight feels tired, and expected, rather than organic. This movie is about something else entirely, and it doesn’t really fit into the Billy Jack universe. Not until the end, that is. There’s something genuine about Billy stalking around the Senate floor, clutching fistfuls of forged letters from his home state, accusing the senators of corruption. When he finally collapses from exhaustion, we see Billy complete the journey he begins in Billy Jack. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Billy wakes up with Jean at his side. She remarks on how he solved his conflict peacefully and didn’t resort to violence. The smile on his face tells it all; he has arrived at the place he has been striving towards for so long. This is a true and satisfying ending to his story, even if this final movie has him gasping across the finish line rather than sprinting.
In short, this is a movie you’ll want to see if you’re watching the series, but as a film that stands by itself, it’s not very good. Yeah, it gets the job done and tells the story competently, but everything feels stale and, weirdly, even more dated than the previous films. However, it does ably conclude the journey Billy has followed over the three earlier movies. I just wish it had taken place back at the school, on his home turf, and it was an original story rather than a remake. In any case, Billy Jack Lives!