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Eye of the Tiger (1986) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot

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Summaries

  • Returning home from prison, a Vietnam War veteran sets out to clean up his hometown which has come under the control of a violent motorcycle gang.

  • Buck Matthews (Gary Busey) is a former Vietnam veteran/ex-con recently released from the state prison. He returns to the small Midwest town where he grew up only to discover the place overrun by a large motorcycle gang bent on causing trouble. When the bikers murder his wife and traumatize his young daughter, Buck finds himself all alone. The corrupt town sheriff (Seymour Cassel) is unsympathetic and unwilling to help Buck (because the sheriff is under control of the biker gang leader Blade (William Smith). So, Buck decides to take matters into his own hands, With the help from a fellow Vietnam vet, Deputy J.B. Deveraux (Yaphet Kotto), as well as Buck's former cell-mate, a drug kingpin living in Miami, Buck arms himself to the teeth and wages a one-man war against the motorcyclists to destroy them once and for all.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • In the opening scene, two prison convicts, the scruffy Buck Matthews (Gary Busey) and the well-dressed Jamie (Jorge Gil), are released from prison. Buck walks alone on a country road. Soon, Jamie pulls up in a chauffeured Rolls Royce convertible, and offers a glass of champagne to celebrate their freedom and expresses his thanks to Buck for saving his life during a prison knife attack some years ago. Buck refuses the drink, but accepts the ride home.

    As they arrive at River City, Buck's hometown, Jamie invites him to Miami, Florida, to work at one of his family's various legitimate "businesses". When Buck declines Jamie's offer, Jamie is frustrated and waits, while Buck meets with Sheriff Copeland (Seymour Cassel) about his parole. The Sheriff is very hostile and unfriendly towards Buck and wants him to leave town. Afterward, Buck's friend, Deputy Sergeant J.B. Deveraux (Yaphet Kotto), accompanies him to a nearby gift store. Before Buck leaves in J.B.'s car, Jamie hands his former prison mate his telephone number in case he ever needs anything.

    J.B. drops Buck at a ranch, where Buck's 10-year-old daughter, Jennifer (Judith Barsi), greets him with a hug. He hands her a present, then embraces his wife, Christie (Denise Galik). Later, she says he can return to his old construction job, but the boss wants him to start at the bottom and work his way back to foreman. She thinks it would be better to move to a place where they could make a fresh start, but Buck refuses claiming that he was born and grew up in River City and wants to stay.

    Later that evening, as a nurse named Dawn (Kimberlin Brown) finishes her shift at the hospital, a motorcycle gang surrounds her car, and attacks her. Buck hears her screams, and races to the scene in his pickup truck. There, he sideswipes gang members with his vehicle. Then, Buck and "Blade," (William Smith) the gang leader, stare at each other until Blade orders his fellow gang members to leave. Buck takes Dawn to the hospital, where Sheriff Copeland arrives and openly accuses him of being a vigilante, and warns that any more displays of the same behavior will send him back to prison.

    When Buck returns home, Melody Mendoza (Amelia Haas), a local television reporter, congratulates him for being a hero. The motorcycle gang hears Melody's report on television, and learns Buck's home address. Meanwhile, Christie informs Buck that the gang distributes drugs, and the sheriff does nothing to stop them. J.B. warns Buck that the gang will seek revenge when he is on the job or alone at home. He asks Buck to avoid any further confrontations. Later, as Buck cleans his shotgun, Christie cries and pleads with him to reconsider leaving town. This time, he agrees and asks her to pack their possessions.

    At night, the gang ambushes the family with their motorcycles. The assault leaves Christie dead and Jennifer catatonic. At the hospital, the wounded Buck uses a nearby payphone to call Jamie for help.

    A few days later at Christie's funeral, as Father Healey (Bert Remsen) reads prayers at Christie's grave, the motorcycle gang appears and briefly surrounds the funeral party as an intimidating tactic before leaving. Buck and the gang leader stare at each other, but J.B. grabs Buck's arm to prevent him from doing anything rash. Later, J.B. points out the gang's drug manufacturing plant in the desert, and explains that the sheriff protects their interests. Since Buck has returned from Vietnam with a bunch of medals, the admiration of the town, and a willingness to confront authority. J. B. says the sheriff fears him and wants him gone. They return to Buck's trashed home, but Buck insists on staying there.

    Meanwhile, the Sheriff meets Blade in the desert where the Sheriff gets his weekly bribes of cash in exchange for ignoring the motorcycle gang's antics. When the Sheriff advises Blade to tone down his gang's activities which has led to Christie Matthew's death, the violent and sociopath Blade grabs the sheriff by the throat, hands him a stack of cash, and warns him to watch his business, while Blade will safeguard his own interests.

    A few days later, a huge unmarked semi-trailer truck arrives in town and delivers a state-of-the-art pickup truck custom outfitted with sophisticated weaponry to Buck's front door (complete with light machine guns, twin mortars, and sharp weapons). Along with the new pickup truck is a short letter to Buck from Jamie living in Miami, which reads: "Now we are even. Good luck, Amigo. Jamie".

    At the hospital, Dawn administers physical therapy to an unresponsive Jennifer. Buck brings his daughter a music box to replace the one destroyed in the attack. However, Jennifer does not respond.

    In his new truck, Buck listens to a police scanner, and, at night, he sets a trap in town. Buck strings a low-hanging wire across the road, and when three gang members on their motorcycles appear looking for people to harass, they run into the wire. Two of the bikers are decapitated, and another one is mauled and dies as well. After the three gang members are dead, Buck leaves the bodies in the street but removes the evidence from the scene.

    The next day at the station, the corrupt sheriff interrogates Buck, insisting he is responsible for the deaths of the gang members. Buck dares the sheriff to prove he did the crime. The sheriff responds by hitting Buck and that when he has his proof, Buck will go back to prison for a long time.

    Some days later, the gang returns to Buck's property, and deposits Christie's coffin (which they dug up and desecrated) in front of Buck's house. When Buck sees the coffin, he is sick to his stomach. As he digs a new grave for his wife, Deputy Roscoe arrives and warns that the gang is toying with him, and will ultimately kill him. When Roscoe warns Buck that his shotgun is a parole violation, Buck dares the deputy to arrest him. Roscoe refuses, and says Buck is already a dead man.

    Soon, Buck visits J.B. at a private airport to request extra protection for Jennifer at the hospital as J.B. works on his airplane.

    Another day later, Buck ambushes another group of four biker gang members by using his old pickup truck as bait. As the four bikers assault the truck, Buck drives on the scene in his new armed and armored pickup truck and kills all four gang members.

    Still later, Buck and J.B. wait for the gang's next move, then kill and disable several more members when they assault a gas station garage. During the engagement, they wound and send one of the bikers, who happens to be Blade's brother, Ray, to the hospital with a crushed larynx. At the hospital that evening, Buck offers Dawn a ride home. Later, gang members murder the police guard in front of Jennifer's room, and Buck's friend, Jimmy, standing watch inside.

    As Buck drinks beer on Dawn's porch and flirts with her, she receives a telephone call that the gang kidnapped Jennifer. Buck returns to the hospital in dressed in a doctor's scrubs and tortures Ray in his hospital bed until he reveals Jennifer's whereabouts. Buck then leaves Ray to die of a heart attack caused by fright when Buck places a fake stick of dynamite up Ray's rectum. As Sheriff Copeland places Buck under arrest, but Father Healey says he has no grounds. The sheriff pulls out his gun and threatens to kill Buck right there as a summary execution, but the priest says the sheriff will have to shoot him first. The sheriff backs down and allows Buck to leave. Outside the hospital, J.B. waits in Buck's truck, and asks him if he has a plan.

    The next morning, Buck goes to the town's bar and later to a bingo hall to plead for help, but the townspeople, (out of fear of retribution by the biker gang) refuse to help him. Buck curses at their cowardice and leaves.

    Alone, Buck drives to the gang's camp in the desert, and sees Jennifer imprisoned in a wire cage. Meanwhile, J.B. flies his airplane to assist Buck, who ambushes gang members with a barrage of firepower. Above, J.B. drops grenades and dynamite from the air, destroying several tents and some structures of the biker camp. Buck assaults the camp in his armed pickup truck and causes havoc, killing several gang members with his truck's weapons, rescues Jennifer from her cage, and places her in the truck. Then, he launches a full-scale attack on Blade and his followers. When J.B. lands his airplane on an airstrip after being hit and forced down by small arms fire from the ground, he returns to Buck's truck for safety. A futuristic cannon mounted to the back of Buck's truck kills several more gang members pursuing on motorcycles.

    Buck drives to town, and stops at a police checkpoint. The sheriff orders his men to arrest or kill Buck, but the deputies, having had enough of his corruption and abuse of authority, refuse to make a move. When the sheriff tries to arrest Buck himself, he knees the corrupt law officer in the groin, and forces him into the truck. He asks J.B. to watch Jennifer, and returns to Blade's ravaged camp. As Buck dodges bullets and mortar rounds in the truck from the armed gang members, the sheriff panics, and offers to cut a deal, giving Buck half of all the bribes he receives. Instead, Buck handcuffs him, and allows the truck to be blown up by a mortar round, with the sheriff inside.

    Blade promises his followers that he will finish off Buck personally. The adversaries fight hand-to-hand until Buck grabs hold of a shotgun. However, he decides not to use it against Blade, and their fistfight continues. Then, J.B. arrives with a handful of armed reinforcements and Deputy Roscoe arrives with some armed policemen and they watch Buck and Blade's hand-to-hand fight alongside the motorcycle gang. Blade suffocates after falling into a vat of cocaine, and Buck finishes him off with one last punch. With their leader dead, the remaining dozen or so gang members start their motorcycles and retreat. Buck smiles as he approaches J.B. and tells his friend, "It's good to see you." The final overhead shot shows the remains of the gang's camp as the surviving motorcycle gang members ride away (presumably to look for another small town to hide out in and terrorize), as Buck and J.B. stand facing each other and look on at the remains of the biker camp.

    Freeze frame. End credits.

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