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Film / Tank

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Tank is a 1984 action-dramedy film starring James Garner (from The Great Escape and The Rockford Files primarily, but also the antagonist of Atlantis: The Lost Empire), Shirley Jones (The Partridge Family; Oklahoma!) and C. Thomas Howell (Red Dawn (1984)), and also James Cromwell (Babe, Star Trek: First Contact, The Green Mile, Space Cowboys, The Sum of All Fears, I, Robot, The Longest Yard and Surrogates) and G. D. Spradlin (The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now) as The Dragon and the Corrupt Cop, respectively.


Tank has examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: Sgt. Major Zack Carey to his kid, and to other people's kids.
  • Anti-Armor: A Panzerschreck is brought in by one of Buelton's posse to stop Carey's tank.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece:
    • The titular tank is a fully-functional, fully-armed World War II era Sherman tank that Sgt. Carey has restored on his own time with resources from his base's motor pool.
    • Buelton returns the favor with a fully functioning and firing Panzerschreck, easily capable of penetrating the Sherman's armor.
  • Brutal Honesty: The biker gang decides to commandeer some heavy cable and a bulldozer in order to pull the tank over the state line. The driver of the cable truck comes up:
    Driver: "Hey, what're you guys doin'?"
    Biker: "Stealin'."
  • Corrupt Cop: Sheriff Cyrus Buelton. And everyone else.
  • Corrupt Hick: Sheriff Buelton. He frames Carey's son for drug possession and cheating him out of his retirement money and forcing him to sell his recently-purchased boat.
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  • Dirt Forcefield: Works on Bill's skin, but not his clothing.
  • Dramedy: Carey's tank-enabled retribution against Buelton and his cronies has a lot of funny moments. The reason why he had to unleash said tank is not.
  • Good Ol' Boy: Cyrus. The trope is even referenced by name.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Sarah.
  • Humiliation Conga: The second half of the film pretty much amounts to this for Sheriff Buelton, starting with his office being flattened and ending with him landing face-down in the mud.
  • Kangaroo Court: The "trial" that Carey's son gets: In only a few hours the defense attorney is found in contempt of court and jailed, Carey's son is arraigned, tried, and sentenced to years of prison on felony drug charges, and immediately shipped off to prison later the same day.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: More like a Start Up The Tank Montage, but it still counts.
  • Military Brat: Bill and (the dead) John.
  • Military Maverick: Subverted; Zack is all for keeping the peace in the armed forces. Before he goes on his road trip, he resigns from the army, meaning it's now a strictly civilian matter. The army can't get involved.
  • Morton's Fork: The governor of Tennessee (the state to which Sergeant-Major Carey and his tank are trying to escape) faces one when confronted with the question of whether he'll fight Carey's extradition.
    Governor: If I say "yes", I'm harboring a fugitive. If I say "no", I've just shot Jesse James.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Carey forces Euclid, Buelton's cretinous deputy, to strip naked in public after he destroys the sheriff's station. The townsfolk find it hilarious.
  • One-Man Army
  • Oh, Crap!: When Euclid emerges from inside the sheriff's station to find himself staring down the Sherman's barrel.
    Carey: I do believe I gotcha covered.
  • Papa Wolf: Shown zealously earlier on, then taken Up to Eleven later.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Sheriff Buelton referrs to Carey’s friend Tippet (who is black) as “boy” and advises Carey against getting “some Jew lawyer” to help Billy, among other slurs.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Sergeant, that's the best fuckin' apple cobbler I ever tasted." And in a PG movie, too. note 
  • Prison Rape: Implied that this will happen to Bill.
  • Smug Snake: Sheriff Buelton, oh so very much, especially when showing Carey the work farm and just twisting the knife and gloating about the power he holds over him. This makes his Humiliation Conga all the more sweeter.
  • Society Marches On: The plot of the film is based on the idea that if they can flee across the state line to Tennessee, they can be safely beyond prosecution. When the movie was made in 1984, that was the law in the United States, under the Supreme Court ruling Kentucky v. Dennison from 1861. However, three years after the film was made, that ruling was overturned in Puerto Rico v. Branstad which ruled that states cannot refuse extradition requests from other states. The plot of the film wouldn't have worked just three years later. Not to mention how the country would react in a post 9/11 environment to a vigilante with a vintage tank blasting his way across the southern US.
    • Although it should be pointed out that Zack wasn't fleeing with his son to Tennessee to avoid prosecution as he knew that there would be an extradition request. Which means there'd be a hearing, but not the Kangaroo Court that his son was subjected to. They in turn would be given a chance to explain their side of the story to a Judge, which would trigger an investigation on the Corrupt Hick Sheriff. In his words, they weren't running from the law, they were running toward it. Even if extradition were granted, by then there'd so much public attention and witnesses that there would be no way for the Sheriff and his cronies to cover it up or avoid an investigation.
    • Also, today, if a law enforcement official did those things, he'd find himself subject to both State and Federal investigations for Civil Rights violations. Law Enforcement takes a very dim view of people abusing their authority to do things like sexual slavery and extortion along with ordering a posse to fire on unarmed civilians outside his jurisdiction. The same would go for the Judge of that Kangaroo Court who would find himself removed from the bench for abuse of power and possibly facing conspiracy charges.
  • Tank Goodness: It's in the name.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer basically tells the whole story.
  • Vanilla Edition: Loading this DVD into your player's tray is like inserting a VHS tape into your VCR. There isn't even a menu. It just starts playing the movie.
  • Was It Really Worth It?
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Zack informs one of his subordinates in explicit terms that he can't beat up his wife, he needs to get counseling, and if he does it again, nothing, not the stockade or loss of his pension, will stop him. "I will destroy you in place."
  • Would Hit a Girl: Euclid and Sheriff Buelton slap around Sarah and beat her with a belt, respectively. It’s the former incident that triggers the events of the film.


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