When I reviewed The Last Child, I wondered if I would find a made-for-tv movie from the 1970s I liked. So, with this month’s Genre Grandeur on the horizon, I decided to start my quest for a good made-for-tv movie from the ‘70s! As ‘Car Chase Movies’ are the theme of May’s event, I stumbled upon the 1977 title, Double Nickels. Though not a television film, it’s a project I found intriguing. Before this year, I had never heard of the 1977 production. But blogathons can be a time when participants discover films that are new to them. Looking back on my Genre Grandeur reviews from this year, most of the movies I’ve reviewed were just ok, with one film being just fine. Will Double Nickels break that track record? Drive through this review in order to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
The use of music: Music is an integral part of film-making, elevating a scene’s tone and attempting to make the audience feel a certain emotion. Even during a car chase, music can heighten the intensity of the moment itself. Double Nickels gives some of their car chases background music. But the music in this film emphasizes the different types of car chases within the story. Smokey, in his police car, chases a dune buggy. When the dune buggy gets away and drives up a nearby dune, a light-hearted banjo tune plays in the scene’s background. At the beginning of the movie, there is a chase involving a motorcycle. For this scene, rock music can be heard as the chase continues. These tunes are determined by the vehicles presented in the scene. Combining these two elements, it feels like the movie’s creative team made thoughtful musical choices for their car chases!
Different types of cars: The story of Double Nickels takes place in Southern California. This particular landscape provides a reason for different types of cars to be present in the movie. When Smokey meets Jordan for the first time, she appears to be driving a red Ferrari. Earlier in the film, Ed and Smokey stop two vans in order to give their drivers a ticket. These vans, a blue one and a green one, look like they’d be found at a beach or on a campsite. The variety of vehicles highlights the diverse preferences of drivers. This creative decision also makes sense with Smokey and Ed’s profession, as they would encounter different types of cars.
Ways of presenting a car chase: There are several car chases featured in Double Nickels. These chases were presented in different ways, providing new paths for cars to travel through. During one chase, two cars drive down a flight of stairs. Another chase shows three cars driving through giant puddles of water, with the water splashing around the cars. While watching Double Nickels, I had to remind myself how this movie was created during a time when CGI and special effects were not at a film-maker’s disposal like it is today. With that in mind, I appreciated the efforts and resources it took to make these car chases look good on screen!
What I didn’t like about the film:
A small sense of urgency: When a movie includes car chases, those car chases are there for a reason. It typically means a character’s life is in danger or a character needs to achieve a mission. No matter the specific situation, a strong sense of urgency would be present, making the audience care about the characters and their story. In Double Nickels, though, the sense of urgency was small. Smokey and Ed repossess cars in order to make extra money. Eventually, they learn their operation is not what it seems. But Smokey and Ed’s entire process is presented in a very nonchalant way, forgetting about the danger that could be lurking behind them. Even when a climactic car chase takes place, I didn’t feel scared for the characters and their well-being. The small sense of urgency also caused the film’s suspense to feel limited.
Weak acting performances: No matter the production, all I can expect out of any actor is for them to try their best with the material they are given. Sometimes, those efforts are strong. But in Double Nickels, I found the acting performances weak. Serving as one example, Smokey and Ed are discussing the idea of repossessing cars. Throughout this scene, Ed and Smokey display a limited number of facial expressions. Their voices carry the same singular tone, with their conversation seeming unusually rushed. Despite Jack Vacek and Edward Abrahms’ efforts with the script, the interaction feels robotic and unnatural. The weakness of the acting performances was, sometimes, distracting.
A drawn-out story: As I’ve already mentioned in this review, Smokey and Ed repossess cars, with their plan turning out differently than expected. The movie itself is an hour and twenty-eight minutes. But the story feels longer than its run-time. The aforementioned small sense of urgency played a role in the story being drawn out. Unnecessary inclusion of story points added to this as well. Tami is in a romantic relationship with Smokey. During the movie, it is revealed she is cheating on Smokey with another man. After this reveal, Tami and her new significant other are never seen or heard from again. Smokey didn’t bring them up either. This is just one example of a part of the story that could have been cut, which would have tightened the script.
My overall impression:
There are many reasons for the creation of a movie. Sometimes, it is because a film-maker has an interesting story to tell. Other times, a studio wants to capitalize on the nostalgia of a well-known title. In the case of Double Nickels, that reason, to me, feels like an excuse to film cool-looking car chases. I will admit the car chases themselves were the highlight of this project. A significant amount of effort and thought was put into their delivery, from the musical selections to the way they were presented on screen. All of the other aspects of this story, though, fall flat. Despite the car chases in the story, the sense of urgency was small. It also didn’t help how the story felt longer than necessary. Double Nickels is the third film from the 1970s I’ve reviewed this year. With this movie being so underwhelming, I haven’t had the best of luck finding a title I like.
Overall score: 5.7 out of 10
Have you seen Double Nickels? Is there a car chase movie you like? Please let me know in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!