Did I just wake up on some bizarro world?! How else could you explain anyone giving this film a 10 or even scores of 9 and 8? Other than to provide unintended laughs, I just can't see the Billy Jack films as capable of earning anything close to these very respectable scores--even this one, which is probably the best in the series.
This film starts on a very, very poor note. Instead of storytelling, there is a long exposition by Pat O'Brien as he explains much of the setting for the film--and it's way too much! This long diatribe about the evils of nuclear weapons and nuclear power just seemed like sloppy film making-- like a political speech instead of a proper prologue. In addition, why not have the characters talk about this in the film itself? Having this prologue just seemed like they forgot to film these scenes and instead chose to sum it all up this way!
As for the rest of the film, it sure showed a lot of hubris for director/actor Tom Laughlin to consider remaking the Jimmy Stewart-Frank Capra classic film (currently #101 on IMDb's top 250). In this version, however, instead of appointing Jefferson Smith to the Senate (a beloved icon of children across America), the powers that be decide to appoint a man with a long history of manslaughter and possibly justifiable homicides!! I certainly remember Mr. Jack dispensing a lot of mayhem in his previous films THE BORN LOSERS, BILLY JACK and THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK! Apparently the grafters do not remember nor do they read the newspapers, and so they decided to appoint an ex-con who is famous for fighting "the man". That sure makes sense!! What's next--appointing a member of the Manson family or a rabid dog or a tomato?!
What was likable about this silly film? Well, it was finally nice to see Delores Taylor (Laughlin's wife and co-star in the Jack films) stop being the perennial victim. Finally, after three films, Billy apparently finally taught her martial arts and she, as well as Billy, deliver some well-earned butt-kickings in one scene! This actually was well done and helped the film tremendously. Also, while the film stuck VERY close to the original material (too close if you ask me), the basic story, no matter how bastardized, is still very good--so good that Laughlin couldn't help produce a reasonably entertaining film--provided you turn off your brain and don't think too much about putting Billy Jack in this locale. Plus you gotta admit that Laughlin sure seemed sincere--and infused the film with some nice energy late in the film--and not in the form of butt-kickings (I half expected him to do this on the Senate floor)! This section of the film was, at times, too intense, but at least it was NOT an exact copy of Jimmy Stewart.
However, despite some good intentions, the premise of Billy Jack taking on and winning against the evil special interest groups is silly--and also way too idealistic--and probably will result in a few laughs. While not a terrible film, it pales in comparison to the Capra film and occasionally sinks into ridiculousness. Apparently audiences felt pretty much the way I did, as this film never even made it past preview audiences and so it never received a normal theatrical release--though the film was definitely better than THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK (which made "The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time" book). Luckily for lovers of the bizarre and bad films (like me), BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON was finally released on DVD some time back.
By the way, because the film was never released until recently, this might explain the poorly executed edits and choppy transitions. Too often, scenes VERY abruptly change and the cuts just aren't made well. In addition, the sound track was too loud and too often dominated the film. Otherwise, Laughlin's direction actually was a bit better than usual...which still isn't saying all that much.