If you had just moved to a small town in Georgia and your teenage son was framed for marijuana possession and sentenced to years of hard labor, what would you do?
Would you hire a good lawyer and file appeal after appeal?
Would you go to the media and let them know that the corrupt sheriff and his evil deputy are running a prostitution ring and the only reason your son is in prison is because you dared to call them out on their corruption?
Or would you get in a World War II-era Sherman tank and drive it across Georgia, becoming a folk hero in the process?
If you are Sgt. Zack Carey (James Garner), you take the third option. Sgt. Carey is only a few months from retirement but he is willing to throw that all away to break his son (C. Thomas Howell) out of prison and expose the truth about Sheriff Buelton (G.D. Spradlin) and Deputy Euclid Baker (James Cromwell, playing a redneck). Helping Sgt. Carey out are a prostitute (Jenilee Harrison), Carey’s wife (Shirley Jones), and the citizens of Georgia, who lines the road to cheer the tank as it heads for the Georgia/Kentucky border. It’s just like the O.J. Bronco chase, with James Garner in the role of A.C. Cowlings.
The main thing that Tank has going for it is that tank. Who has not fantasized about driving across the country in a tank and blowing up police cars along the way? James Garner is cool, too, even if he is playing a role that would be better suited for someone like Burt Reynolds. Tank really is Smoky and the Bandit with a tank in the place of that trans am. Personally, I would rather have the trans am but Tank is still entertaining. Dumb but entertaining.
One final note, a piece of political trivia: According to the end credits, the governor of Georgia was played by Wallace Willkinson. At first, I assumed this was the same Wallace Wilkinson who later served as governor of Kentucky. It’ not. It turns out that two men shared the same name. It’s just a coincidence that one played a governor while the other actually became a governor.