The Last Chase (1981) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • In a future United States, the only transport available to an individual is public transportation. Predicated on an assertion that "the oil has run out", an increasingly totalitarian central government has ordered all personal vehicles be impounded by law. One man, a former race car driver, yearns again for his ability to choose his own roads and destiny. He reassembles his race car hidden from confiscation, and sets out for "Free California" which has broken away from the new regime, aided by a young technically savvy teen who feels alienated from this "social" society. Agents of the new government must stop this man at any cost to destroy the symbology he represents, and the instability that such a desire for personal autonomy could mean to the society. An old Korean War veteran and his F-86 Sabre jet are called into service to chase down this dangerous man, and end his flouting of the will of the state. In the words of one of the government agents, "People going where they want to, where they want to. This could set us back to the 1980s."

  • It is the future. Evil fascists have forced everyone to recycle and drive electric cars, and have oppressed all those poor people who want to drive Ferraris and smoke cigarettes. Hero Franklyn Hart (Lee Majors), an ex-racing car driver, decides to make a statement by pulling out his old race car and driving cross-country at one hundred fifty miles (two hundred forty-one kilometers) per hour (he siphons gas from old gas station pumps). Taking along a young computer hacker, he drives for the Holy Land, the Free State of California. Of course, the powers that be try to eliminate him by hiring Captain J.G. Williams (Burgess Meredith) to shoot him down with a fighter jet, which, too, are virtually extinct.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Movie opens with roar of race car engine, clunking out on the back stretch of deserted race oval. Stands are empty. Cut to the driver as he goes to the gas pumps and finds them padlocked. Next cut to him looking for someone - shouts back to guy sweeping up about the gas. The janitor says says something like "I can get you anything, but I can't get you gas. And I'm sorry about your family Mr. Hart; I'd have sent flowers, buy you can't even get them anymore.

    From this introductory exchange, the movie informs us through the narration of Lee Majors that we are in a post-apocolypic future in which a gasoline shortage and a plague outbreak have decimated the country. Cars are now illegal, and society has settled into a state of "utopian" existence where people drive get around by mass transit and the police drive electric golf carts and people have been consolidated into the major urban areas of the East Coast. We learn also that Mr. Hart lost his wife and son in the plaugue. During this narration the film shows him trailering his race car back to his home. It shows him driving his station wagon through a throng of people at an aid camp and being ordered out of it by a soldier. As he is riding the train back from working at the camp, time fast forwards about 10 years and Mr. Hart exits the train in a business suit, looking somewhat older and greyer, into the "utopian" future city of Philadelphia.

    He is now a lecturer at something that resembles the Department of Transportation, and his job is to talk about mass transit to high school students as someone who used to race cars.

    Meanwhile, on the campus of an unnamed prep school, there is a montage of scenes involving a nerdy kid who doesn't fit in. The other boys rip up his science notes. He blows up their baseball. They hang him upside down from the quad statue. He blows the head off the statue. Then we see him using an old school computer and modem to jam the government's computers.

    At home, while Frank Hart is watching home movies on the envisioned successor to the VCR, a broadcast from Radio Free California appears on his TV. They say they have returned to their city, their roads, and their cars.

    Things for Frank take a turn for the worse at work. He is called in for an interview with an agent from the "adjustment bureau", who shows confronts him about breaking in to a junk yard. They have an little raprte in which he keeps using "old" words, like junkyards and jail, and she corrects him with the new words, like "vehicle graveyard" and "rehabilitation center". In the final exchange he tells her there are too many "rules", to which she says they are "laws", and he replies, "Lady, you got too damn many laws."

    From this point on, the plot follows an arc in which Frank Hart flees Philadelphia in his old race car, bringing along the boy from the prep school, and travelling the back roads of an abandoned American heartland. The folks at the adjustment bureau, including a guy from Washington brought in specially to deal with the "car crisis", make a number of attempts to stop Mr. Hart, principal among them is hiring a former air force ace and retrofitting his old Korean War era sabre jet so he can hunt down Frank Hart. This ace has become a bit of a wine-o, and seems to be longing for the good old days himself. He initially strafes the car, as it pulls off the road, and Hart is wounded. He manages to get into the treeline, where a group of survivalists find him and the boy, and take them in. However a SWAT team is sent in to raid the camp and find the car, and the two must leave. Eventually the pilot and the race car driver face off mano a mano with their machines, and, not so surprisingly, it turns out that they are on the same side.

    Meanwhile, Hawkins, the "Washington" administrator and the bureau, has instructed Mr. Morley, the tech guy, to activate a "Star Wars" laser on the west coast and put it on automatic so that it will shoot anything that moves. The laser, however, is mechanically damaged with age, and will not shoot above a certain elevation. The laser cannot shoot down the plane. Captain Williams attempts to report the laser to Hart, but their radios are jammed by the bureau. Realizing that Hart will be targeted by the laser, Williams zooms ahead and destroys the laser with a kamikaze dive. Before going down, he radios in to Mr. Morley that he "Sees chance to wear medals again."

    With the laser destroyed, the car arrives in California and the closing scene shows people turning out in the streets and crowding around as they drive into San Francisco. An announcement of the cars arrival is narrated by the voice of Radio Free California.

    In the final scene, back at the adjustment bureau in Phili, Mr. Hawkins packs up his things, and before leaving gives a brief eulogy for their utopian world that this "will set us back to the 1980s".

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