Warbus (1985)

Ah, ‘Namsploitation. Where every gun has infinite bullets, every weapon is always set to rock and roll, and everyone fires from the hip. Also, shit explodes. From the fiery ashes of the Viet Nam comes classic films about heroism in a shithouse jungle hotbox, where Charlie hides behind every tree, and discipline has broken down to nothing. Where every GI sports a beard and has forgotten how to salute, and every step is booby trapped. Into this maelstrom of shrapnel and fire rides a school bus, driven by missionaries and hijacked by three abandoned US marines who are desperate to get the hell out and go back to the World.

The year is 1972, the US has pulled out most of its ground forces along the North/South border, and the NVA are now launching the Easter Offensive. A South Vietnamese major and a group of missionaries board a school bus driven by an NVA spy who tries to head north…until the Marines stop him and commandeer things. The ragtag group initially despises each other, until they begin recognizing the need to work together to survive. Along the way, they encounter NVA battalions and booby trapped corpses of American soldiers, raid abandoned South Vietnamese and American fire bases, scrounge for fuel and supplies, and discover that one of the missionaries is actually an epileptic schizophrenic who isn’t always trustworthy.

Stuff explodes in this movie. A lot. And for some reason, everyone constantly rolls and leaps around whenever they get into a gunfight. Yet despite how depressing the material is, it’s still an entertaining ride. I’m not saying this is a good movie; far from it. But I still rooted for the good guys to kick butt and evade the bad guys, even when I thought they looked ridiculous doing it. Everyone is desperate to survive, and everyone has been out in the jungle for way too long, so the constantly frayed nerves don’t come off as bad as they might have in a different situation. Sure, the acting is poor, but considering just how bad things were in Vietnam in the 1970s…well, the over-the-top nature of many of the performances actually don’t seem that weird. These people are crazy, but they all just want to get home, no matter what.

I liked Warbus. It’s not great, but it’s not as awful as I was expecting. And it is way, way better than dreck like Robowar. And Warbus is what made the North Koreans notice Ferdinando Baldi and hire him to make Ten Zan, in which one of the Marines from this film, Romano Kristoff, also starred. Hell, to bring it home, the Warbus sequel stars Mark Gregory of both Ten Zan and the Thunder films. Would I watch that? You bet your sweet candy ass I would.

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