Sunday, July 12, 2009

Smokey and the Bandit

It was Saturday afternoon, the weather was about as crappy as it gets around here, and I don't really need an excuse to indulge in what must be one of the guiltiest of guilty pleasures.

Watching Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason in what is essentially a 90 minutes car chase is still good fun; despite the fact (or perhaps because) there's no storyline of any significance, or any character development worth mentioning, interfering with the plot of one car chasing another from Texarkana, Texas to Atlanta, Georgia for the flimsiest of reasons.

Burt Reynolds never seems to hesitate to make fun of himself, as he's introduced in the opening scenes not as a heroic daredevil racing driver, but as a has-been who is being paid to hang out at the local truck race (the movie wastes no time establishing itself in the world of redneck hillbillies) so "people can look at the legend".

Country singer Jerry Reed, as Reynold's truck driving buddy, adds a few dry one-liners and also supplies the embarrassingly catchy theme song. And Sally Field, with her best roles clearly still to come, may easily be out-acted by Fred the Beagle, but she does bring, as Cledus mentions so subtly, "a nice ass" to the mix.

The movie certainly takes us back to simpler times, to times when seatbelts were for wussies, the good guys were allowed to smoke, GM was still making cool cars, and movie stunts were done for real, without the "help" of some sterile CGI effects.

While the cars are clearly the stars and the various chases, crashes and heart-stopping near-misses are the highlights of the film, Gleason's Sheriff Buuuuuuford T Justice clearly stands out among the actors' performances. Gleason brilliantly portrays this caricature of a Texan law enforcer, incorporating every cliché ever conceived about this particular breed of humans.

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