Black Moon Rising (1986)
With an experimental jet car, a craggy wisecracking anti-hero (Tommy Lee Jones as Quint), and Robert Vaughn acting creepy, Black Moon Rising has everything one could ask for in an 80s action cheapie. Released by the scrappy New World Pictures in 1986 (after Roger Corman sold his stake in the company that made Death Race 2000 and Rock 'n' Roll High School), it's a multi-tiered techno-thriller where a filched computer file ends up in the NASA designed dragster, and half of the country's black ops descend upon it, each with their own nefarious design.
Carpenter's touch can be seen in Quint's character, who maintains a preternatural calm throughout, always ready with a dry witticism in the midst of chaos. It's the kind of nihilist Hawksian lead that Carpenter perfected with his series of Kurt Russell films. Director Harley Cokliss doesn't have the same gift for eliciting nuanced performances - Jones seems a touch too distant, almost comatose, even when he's getting his head smashed into a car door or romancing professional carjacker Linda Hamilton.
The punch here isn't in the characters (although there's strong work from Bubba Smith - "Don't fuck with the government"), but in the hurtling plot lines, which contort to fit themselves into ridiculous positions, the speed of the reversals and face-to's shuffling them into some kind of dream-like coherence after a rooftop flight lands smack dab into a mafia shakedown and a nonchalant government spook intervention. As Dave Kehr asked, "Is this the first cubist thriller?"