Zack is a Command Sergeant Major assigned to his last post before leaving the service. He is a colorful character and even on has his own WWII vintage tank that is used for parades and such. After he stops a deputy from beating a call girl, he finds that he is a marked man in town. The sheriff arrests his son on a trumped up drug charge. When all else fails, Zack uses his tank to even the odds.
James Garner ... Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Zack Carey
Shirley Jones ... LaDonna Carey
C. Thomas Howell ... William 'Billy' Carey
Mark Herrier ... SSgt. Jerry Elliott, 'Soldier' Magazine Reporter
Sandy Ward ... Maj. Gen. V.E. Hubik
Jenilee Harrison ... Sarah, Hooker
James Cromwell ... Deputy Euclid Baker
Dorian Harewood ... Sfc. Ed Tippet, Provost Marshal's Office
G.D. Spradlin ... Sheriff Cyrus Buelton
John Hancock ... Mess MSgt. Johnson
Guy Boyd ... Sgt. Wimofsky
Dan Albright ... TV Reporter #1 (as Daniel Albright)
Gerald A. Atkins ... Food Server
Tank is one of my favorite James Garner films because our hero is playing his exact age and showing how a middle aged man can do some extraordinary things in defense of his family.
Of course Garner is no ordinary guy. He's a sergeant major on a U.S. Army fort in rural north Georgia and in line according to his commanding officer to be the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army. That's the highest ranking enlisted man in that service and he serves under the chief of staff. But Garner is looking forward to retirement in a couple of years with his wife, Shirley Jones and his surviving son, C. Thomas Howell.
He's got a nice little hobby as well. He's restored a fully operational World War II vintage Sherman tank. And he owns it, not the U.S. Army.
Garner runs afoul of the local law when he comes to the defense of a local prostitute beaten up by a sheriff's deputy, James Cromwell. The sheriff, a mean cracker by all description takes it out on Howell by framing him on a drug charge. Since sheriff G.D. Spradlin runs a nasty county machine, Garner uses the tank in some extra legal activity.
What I like about Tank is that you can't get more a more whitebread all American family than Garner, Jones, and Howell. Garner's whole life is spent in defense of the American way of life. But when it becomes corrupt in his part of the world, he doesn't hesitate for a second when no other course is open to him.
I have to confess I truly enjoyed seeing Garner run his tank right through the local jail and later through the county prison farm to spring his son. When Garner, Howell, and the prostitute he originally aided, Jenilee Harrison flee in that tank for the Tennessee border, the most jaded of viewers will find themselves rooting them on.
Spradlin and Cromwell are a couple of real easy villains to hate. They're a pair of throwbacks to the pre-civil rights era of the South. Both of them give fine performances.
But the real star of the film is that restored Sherman tank. What an item to have to deal with rush hour in New York City.
This is an old fashion good vs. evil movie that is fun. Movies don't always have to have some heavy deep plot. Sometimes it's great to watch a movie that is fun that you can cheer, and this is one of them. It's now over 20 years old, but it still holds up as a fun movies to watch and enjoy.
A big surprise will be to many is to see James Cormwell playing a simple deputy sheriff, and what Command Sergeant Major Carey does to him.
James Gardner, as always, carries the film very well. He is a very believable CSM, and Shirley Jones has a military wife down pat. A young C. Thomas Howell does a good job too as a military son. G.D. Spradlin plays the very mean Sheriff that is very easy to hate. And Jenilee Harrison did this movie at the same time she began a two year run on Dallas, and she looks great in this movie. The whole cast together works great for this movie, and it's great for the whole family.
Not only does Tank offer varied assortments in the ways of wit, action, and humor, I believe that it also accurate portrays the periodic levels of corruption that previously and continue to plague the various small town, white-bred trailer trash communities across the nation, moreover a mild example of which I can personally relate to.
Two years ago, a similar rural community with it's own breed of laws and regulations attempted to suspend my driving privileges upon ticketing a driver for speeding that had confiscated a driver's license that I had previously reported as stolen. My attempts to explain myself only proved a fruitless endeavor, as the community encouraged me to pay up and get over it. Only after I hired an attorney and threatened a lawsuit, did the grit munching scum-suckers in question withdraw their insistence.
Within this film, a corrupt southern bred police department attempts to enslave an Army Major's son after a deputy is justifiable beaten up in retaliation to assaulting a falsely branded "prostitute". As a portion of cover, the malevolent Sheriff runs a broadly defined farm that actually qualifies as a labor camp from which to subject luckless youths to intensive brutality. After failed attempts to appease the Sheriff's fury, James Garner elects to take matters into his own hands, commandeering a personally owned Sherman Tank in which to spring his son, and demolish a few of the corrupt police department's facilities along the way.
Perhaps another reason I enjoyed this movie is the presence of the highly versatile score by the incomparable Lalo Schifrin, who employs every compositional style in the book from Jazz to traditional military marches and a highly catchy disco tune. Unfortunately, the latter becomes a subject of unwarranted contempt from the Sergeant major's redneck upbringing, as he encourages local bars to refit their repertroire to stay any unwanted coersions to "dance the funky monkey".
Overall, the film offers a highly sympathetic premise, that eerily enough seems completely plausible in today's terms, given the prevalence of small towns, isolated from the civilized world and thus prone to erect their own dictatorial policies, no matter how severe.
# The actor that played the Governor of Georgia, Wallace Wilkinson, was Governor of Kentucky from 1987 to 1991.
# "Tank" was originally rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. However, a successful appeal was made which re-issued the motion picture with a PG rating instead. The film's 1983 release predated the PG-13 rating, for which this picture would've likely been rated had it existed when "Tank" was first released.