Electra Glide in Blue

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: James William Guercio

REVIEWED: 02-08-99

A hermit in the Arizona desert commits suicide with a shotgun, or so it would seem. John Wintergreen (Blake) is a sawed-off motorcycle cop who longs to get off the Harley and get into a suit and tie as a state police detective. With his partner Zipper (Bush), he is one of the first on the scene at the suicide and starts gathering clues and acting like the Arizona equivalent of a Texas Ranger. His suspicions about foul play are initially dismissed until the coroner's report finds another slug in the body that doesn't match the shotgun. Wintergreen's solid police work doesn't go unnoticed, and his hopes are fulfilled as Harve Poole (Ryan) takes him under his wing as a driver and protegé. After getting a taste of how Poole operates, though, Wintergreen becomes disillusioned and soon runs afoul of the old-boy system, finding himself back on motorcycle patrol.

Guercio was the producer of many a Chicago album in the Seventies and his sole directorial effort is often as heavy-handed as any of Chicago's "message songs" from the period. Electra Glide purports to be a sort of Easy Rider for the motorcycle-cop set as Wintergreen sets out to find out what he's really made of and what he really wants out of life, but often the movie nearly collapses under the weight of its own good intentions (and pretensions). It combines a fairly standard-issue mystery plot with action scenes, moral questions, and arthouse sensibilities in an overbaked mixture that often works, but not always. It's still worth seeing for Blake's sake; he's always been an actor who's not afraid to take on offbeat roles (ever suffered through David Lynch's Lost Highway?). The show is nearly stolen by Elisha Cook Jr., though, as the raving desert lunatic Willie. With his lips as parched as the sagebrush he calls home, he inarticulately tears his role to pieces and then puts it back together again. Noteworthy hack Mitch Ryan should be instantly recognizable to fans of Dharma and Greg as Greg's uptight dad. Bored audiences can play a little game of find-the-Chicago-member (they just about all made it in there).

--Jerry Renshaw

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