Bobby (Paul Le Mat) is a mechanic working in a garage who decides to supplement his meagre income with a spot of betting on a pool game, but true to form he loses, and his opponent is none too impressed when told that Bobby doesn't have the money to pay hm. After his offer of his car is turned down, he gets twenty four hours to supply the winnings, and perhaps at that moment he was convinced he would manage to secure them, but as the next day dawns Bobby has difficulty finding anyone willing to offer him the seventy-five dollars he needs. And then, as he schemes, he meets Rose (Dianne Hull)...
As writer and director, Floyd Mutrux saw his best films made in the seventies, with his most appreciated effort, American Hot Wax, the perfect example of his naturalistic style applied to a figure from recent history. Another aspect that marked out his movies was the way he scattered an abundance of rock and pop records on their soundtracks, a device which although had been popularised by George Lucas in American Graffiti, did not feel second hand when heard in the Mutrux works. Here not five minutes go by without a burst of recognisable music, and most of it is Elton John: here is Tiny Dancer decades before Almost Famous gave it a renewed vigour.
Mutrux used that music to capture a place and time, and this film definitely feels as if it has vividly conjured up the sense of being in Los Angeles and its surroundings in the mid-seventies, especially when much of what the characters do is hang out with each other with a curious lack of urgency in spite of the trouble Bobby and Rose have found themselves in. Bobby is one of those guys who doesn't go looking for trouble, only it has no bother easily finding him, and you can tell he is headed for a precipitous fall from the first scene. The main question that therefore arises before long is whether he will bring Rose down with him.
Rose is a young single mother who meets the mechanic when he delivers her car to her workplace, another working class character struggling to get by, a match for Bobby. With his naive charm, he wins her over, but the night he is supposed to be heading back to the pool hall to repay his debts (and saving friend Robert Carradine, let's not forget) he is spending it with Rose and when they go into a grocery store, he starts pretending to the assistant that he is robbing it. Yes, he really is that stupid, so when this prank ends with one man dead and another unconscious, the couple have to go on the run in a Bonnie and Clyde fashion typical of this decade's entertainments, but they don't get quite as far as they should have.
Common sense tells you that Bobby and Rose should have stayed at the scene and explained the mistake, but then, with Bobby's luck and propensity for putting his foot in it, you cannot guarantee that the law would believe him. You get the impression that he half enjoys the idea of living life on the road, but Rose suffers more because she has left her son behind, and that is the reason they eventually return to meet whatever fate has in store for them. Along the way they encounter loudmouth Tim McIntire, who Mutrux indulges in a seemingly improvised performance, but he provides the note of hope that is always just out of Bobby's grasp. This is one of those films which may not be widely heard of, but for some reason sticks in the memory of those who catch it, perhaps because of the striking soundtrack and tearjerking ending. It's not brilliant filmmaking, but it's good enough to be hard to forget.