From the director of Smokey and the Bandit comes perhaps the greatest 1980’s film that capitalized on the sport of BMX biking.
Cru Jones is a high school senior who works mornings as a newspaper delivery boy with best friends Becky and Luke in the small town of Cochran. However, Cru has dreams to one day become a professional BMX rider. When he learns that Helltrack, a major obstacle course for professional riders is coming to Cochran this year, he learns that local riders may be given an opportunity to qualify for the race. However, the day of the qualifiers is the same day that he must take his SATs. With the motivation and assistance of professional rider Christian, who becomes his girlfriend, Cru decides to follow his heart.
However, while he impresses the town when he qualifies, he finds some major competition in the track’s promoter, Duke Best. Best is also owner of Team Mongoose, whose top rider Bart Taylor is the number one rider in the nation. Realizing Cru could be a threat to end Taylor’s run as number one, he attempts to destroy Cru by first making him get a sponsor and attempt to raise $50,000 before Helltrack begins. Will Cru’s lifelong dream be crushed by big city capitalism or will he overcome the odds and begin the course of his dream to become a pro rider?
Sports movies were becoming pretty popular in the eighties. Perhaps the two biggest sports to capitalize in the world of films were skateboarding and BMX riding. The former had a following with films like 1986’s Thrashin’, 1987’s Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, and 1988’s Gleaming the Cube. In the world of BMX riding, Australia’s BMX Bandits was one of the first to capitalize on the sport. Then came this film, which is truly an underrated underdog movie done only how former stuntman turned filmmaker Hal Needham could do it.
Bill Allen is a delight to watch as Cru, the local rider who has a passion for BMX so much that he is almost always seen on his bike doing all sorts of tricks and maneuvers. He meshes well with Lori Loughlin, who plays a pro rider who becomes Cru’s love interest and in ways, a guide to his dream of becoming a professional. What many might find strange is how an Olympic gymnast, Bart Conner, plays the number one BMX rider in the nation. However, for some reason, it works here as Conner plays Taylor as a two-sided figure, a little cocky but respectful of some competition.
The veterans do well here. Talia Shire makes the most of her time as Cru’s mother, who tries to teach him that education is more important than bike riding, but ultimately relents when he makes a deal with her. Needham’s usual foil Alfie Wise truly plays perhaps one of his shadiest characters yet while Jack Weston truly plays Best as someone who only cares about winning and his rider and will do anything to get rid of the threat that is Cru. Ray Walston does well as one of the locals who invested in the race and makes a fateful decision once he sees how Cru is being treated, which leads to a bit of comic relief when it comes to a reaction towards the unscrupulous Best.
However, let’s face it, many wonder about the BMX stunts and action and they are nicely done. While the cast did get training for some of the basics, for some of the more difficult tricks, they were doubled. A major highlight of the film involves Allen and Loughlin doing what’s called a “bicycle boogie” at a dance, where they dance and perform moves on their bikes to the music. The Helltrack race itself is amazing to watch as the film involves some of the top BMX racers. They include Eddie Fiola, Martin Aparijo, and Travis Chipres, all whom served as core stunt doubles for the cast.
Rad is truly one of the great underrated sports dramas of the eighties. A great cast plus some excellent BMX stunts make this truly a winner!
WFG RATING: A
TriStar Pictures presents a Taliafilm II Productions film. Director: Hal Needham. Producer: Robert L. Levy. Writers: Sam Bernard and Geoffrey Edwards. Cinematography: Richard Leiterman. Editing: Carl Kress.
Cast: Bill Allen, Lori Loughlin, Talia Shire, Ray Walston, Alfie Wise, Jack Weston, Bart Conner, Marta Kober, Jamie Clarke, Laura Jacoby, H.B. Haggerty, Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes.