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Billy Jack (1971) - Plot Summary Poster

(1971)

Plot

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Summaries

  • Ex-Green Beret hapkido expert saves wild horses from being slaughtered for dog food and helps protect a desert "freedom school" for runaway.

  • Billy Jack is a half-Indian/half-white ex-Green Beret who is being drawn more and more toward his Indian side. He hates violence, but can't get away from it in the white man's world. Pitting the good guys, the students of the peace-loving free-arts school in the desert vs. the conservative bad guys in the near-by town, the movie plays definitive late-60s themes/messages: anti-establishment, make love not war, the senseless slaughter of God's creatures, the rape of society (figuratively and literally), two-sided justice, racial segregation and prejudices.

  • The half-breed Billy Jack lives in an Indian reservation protecting the Indians, the stallions and the students of the Freedom School, a peaceful art school run by Jean Roberts and where the students can choose their own destiny. When the teenage daughter of the corrupt Deputy Mike, Barbara, is retrieved by Sheriff Cole, she tells that she is pregnant and her father beats her up. Sheriff Cole and the local doctor ask Jean if she can lodge Barbara, she welcomes the traumatized teenager. But her father, together with the corrupt and powerful Mr. Stuart Posner and his coward son Bernard Posner, initiate a campaign to damage the school and humiliate the students while Billy Jack fight to control his temper against the bigotry and violence of the locals. But when he discovers what Bernard did to Jean, he has to use violence to defeat evil.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Set in the late 1960s, Billy Jack is a half-white, half-Indian ex-Green Beret Vietnam vet-turned-pacifist, and Hapkido expert (a combination of Tae Kwon Do and Aikido) who having gotten in touch with his Native American roots returns from the war to take up residence on a reservation outside a conservative Arizona town, where he quickly becomes the protector of the wild mustangs and the progressive Freedom School run by Jean Roberts, along with the Native Americans on the reservation.

    Along with Roberts and the pupils, Billy Jack has frequent altercations with local bigoted Sheriff Stuart Posner and his son, Bernard, as well as Deputy Sheriff Mike, whose pregnant 15-year-old Barbara had been found in Haight-Ashbury running away from her abusive father, and was brought home. When she arrives, she suffers yet another beating after telling her father what's going on, runs away again, and is found asleep in a field by Billy Jack, who helps hide her at the Freedom School.

    At first Bernard Posner seems like a sympathetic character when he refuses to shoot any of the wild mustangs on the reservation to sell as dog food like his father wants him to, but after helping to cause much trouble for the Freedom School in the hopes of making his father proud of him by harassing female pupils and verbally and physically abusing other Freedom School pupils, especially the Native Americans; raping Roberts, and ultimately shooting and killing Martin, a gentle Native American who befriended Barbara and taught her that there are ways to gain love other than through easy sex, it's clear that Bernard deserves little or no sympathy, although he does admit to wanting to make his father proud despite hating him.

    Deputy Sheriff Mike, as well as the Posners and many if not most of the townspeople, hate both non-whites and peace-loving whites. The hatred and resentment grows as it becomes known that the Freedom School is not only open to at-risk kids of all racial/ethnic backgrounds, but is also an unconventional school with few rules.

    In the wake of Martin's murder, as well as the rape of Jean, despite Jean's warnings about the possible resulting dissolution of the Freedom School and harm to its pupils. Billy Jack hunts down Bernard Posner, finds him having sex with a 13-year-old in a shabby hotel room on the edge of town, and orders the girl to leave the premises. Bernard then tries to kill Billy Jack by shooting at him, and Billy Jack, in turn, kills Bernard with a karate chop across the throat.

    Billy Jack and Barbara hide from the law in an old church on the edge of town. A shootout between Billy Jack and the law ensues, in which Billy Jack shoots and kills Deputy Mike. Billy Jack, who suffers a gunshot wound to the stomach, stays in the church with Barbara, who is slightly wounded by gunfire. After hiding out in the church all night, Billy Jack finally surrenders to the law and gives himself up, under several conditions:

    A) That the Freedom School be allowed to run for the next ten years with no interference, with Jean Roberts beginning a ten-year contract as principal

    B) That Jean Roberts gets custody of Barbara and becomes Barbara's legal guardian

    C) That an annual press conference be held by the governor's office to report on the school's progress

    The conditions are OK'd by Washington, and, after tearful hugs and goodbyes between him and Jean, Billy Jack allows himself to be handcuffed and taken out to be tried for the killings of Bernard Posner and Barbara's father, Mike. Meanwhile, the kids at the Freedom School gather outside to see Billy Jack off, giving the Black Power raised-fist and shedding tears.

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