Shaker Run (1985) – ripper car movies

An 80s Kiwi classic, with raw car chase action aplenty


After wiping out of the professional US race car circuit, ace American driver Judd Pierson (Cliff Robertson) takes his now-troubled life on the road in an international stunt show, with his trusty mechanic, Casey Lee (1970s teen heartthrob Leif Garrett), in tow.

Unfortunately, a run of bad luck and waning interest in their show finds the pair struggling to make ends meet. While pondering their collective future, a random offer of $3000 for a few hours’ driving lobs in their laps and seems like just what they need to dig them out of their financial hole.

However, the hard case they’ve been entrusted to transport looks extremely suss, and for good reason: they have been hired by a rogue local government scientist, Dr Christine Rubin (Lisa Harrow), who has stolen a deadly virus that was accidentally manufactured as a by-product in her workplace lab.

After the good doctor learns that the local military intend to seize the viral culture for development as a humankind-destroying chemical weapon, she colludes with her colleague, love interest and part-time US operative, Michael Connoly (Peter Hayden) to transfer it into the hands of the CIA.

That inevitably means that the journey Judd, Casey and the doc are undertaking is a world away from a leisurely Sunday drive; the secret military group, led by the stony-faced Paul Thoreau (Shane Briant), are hot on their trail, and unfortunately the awesome but unsubtle bright pink paint of their hotted-up stunt Trans Am replica – dubbed ‘Shaker’ – makes them easy to spot.

Thoreau and his cronies, including Squad Commander (Nathaniel Lees) and The Hitman (Michael Baxter-Lax), pursue our heroes with all the gusto that their, er, ‘murdered-out’ four-cylinder VC Commodore and Bedford van pursuit specials can offer. That said, their canopy-clad HQ ute manages to hold its own – until it flips spectacularly in the middle of town.

The car-chase peak, however, is when The Hitman commandeers a 350 Chev-powered Capri sports sedan that manages to reel in the Trans Am through the hills, at least until it too meets a (simulated) premature end.

The action sequences are full-tilt 1980s raw, with plenty of fiery explosions and car jumps to enjoy – all backed by a heavily synthesised, Space Invaders-esque soundtrack, mind you – and most of those are set against New Zealand’s ample gorgeous scenery.

VERDICT: 3.5/5

A pretty solid flick for its time, Shaker Run offers a simple storyline and dialogue just sufficient enough for it all to make sense. It has the full-on, pure-1980s high-tech lab drama akin to Aussie flick The Chain Reaction, but also contains a few comedic one-liners that further cement its 80s credentials – the clergyman and his flock of nuns blaspheming at a wayward driver is a cracker, while the car salesman making the best of the worst opportunities is also a highlight. It’s an enjoyable movie that tries hard and will keep your interest piqued – especially if it’s car action you’re after.



  • 1980 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
  • 1975 Ford Capri
  • 1979 Holden VC Commodore
  • 1971 HQ Holden utility
  • 1970 MG B GT
  • 1961 Jaguar E-Type
  • 1972 Bedford CF van
  • 1979 Ford XD Falcon panel van
  • 1980 Toyota HiAce van
  • Ford D-Series truck


  • Cliff Robertson
  • Leif Garrett
  • Lisa Harrow
  • Shane Briant
  • Ian Mune
  • Peter Hayden
  • Nathaniel Lees
  • Michael Baxter-Lax

Bruce Morrison

Whether it be dirt or bitumen, city or country, the car action is hot, plentiful and always at wide-open throttle

A washed-up race driver and his devoted mechanic are recruited to transport a mystery package across New Zealand, but the easy cash grab comes with some unexpected challenges

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The scene where a baddie’s Commodore wraps itself around a fence post was actually a stunt driving mishap, but it made the cut nonetheless.