US - 1987
A mere mention of the
name evokes memories of silver screen genius.
Films like Stick,
Heat (with Howard Hesseman, not Al Pacino), and Gator
paved the way for contemporary action heroes like Jeff Speakman, Brian
Bosworth and Michael Dudikoff.
A funny guy am I.
Sure, it’s easy to
poke a little fun at the expense of Burt Reynolds, but the man has been in
a lot – and I do mean a lot –
of movies ranging from mediocre (Sharky’s Machine) to downright
awful (Cop and a Ha).
The man used to be
huge. In some circles, Cannonball
Run and The Longest Yard are considered classics.
So what caused Mr. Reynolds to fall from action movie grace?
For one thing, they
just don’t make ‘em like they used to.
You can blame it on
the filmmakers. It’s easy!
It’s fun! But while
they do constitute a significant portion of the problem, there remains a
question of supply and demand. Today’s
movie audiences want Hiroshima-like explosions and genetically-blessed
actors and actresses. They
want less talk, and more spectacle. In other words, the majority of today’s movie audience is
numb. Why else would movie
trailers loudly boast in a bass-laden voice “directed by Simon West”
if people weren’t impressed by it?
nowadays are all about computer-generated hijinks and pretty boys like
Keanu Reeves and Josh Hartnett jumping over a flaming Chevy in slow motion
dual hand-cannons like Chow Yun-Fat.
Action-dramas featuring gruff, barrel-chested leading men are a
thing of the past. Guys like
Lee Majors, Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds are not marketable to the MTV
generation. People want
leading men who should be gracing the cover of Maxim, as opposed to
roughing up street thugs or putting a hole through the head of a drug
It’s a shame,
really. Action heroes were
never meant to be portrayed by guys who were beat up for their milk money
in elementary school. Action
heroes should be rugged and strong; with an unbelievably thick mustache
that is surpassed only by the
thick patch of chest hair protruding through their flannel shirt.
And while today’s
batch of action heroes is laughable, the bigger farce is what the action
genre itself has evolved into. Gritty
films in the vein of Walking Tall have fallen wayside to crap like Men
in Black 2 and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. What used to be one man against The Man has
turned into one man (or the variation, one man and Seann William Scott)
against aliens, ninjas, and/or computer-generated panda bears.
I like ninjas and
pandas as much as the next guy, but there’s nothing like Joe Don Baker
walking into a two-bit honky tonk armed only with a 2x4 and a chip on his
shoulder. Granted, these
films are often formulaic, and the acting isn’t usually stellar, but
they had an edge and were unapologetic.
Back in the day, Joe Don didn’t know anything about being
is a prime example of the good ole days.
Burt Reynolds plays the hero – named Malone, oddly enough – an
ex-CIA operative who wants to stop watching life through the scope of a
sniper rifle. He forgoes an
assassination, hops into his car, and disappears into the country in
search of solitude. Unfortunately,
Malone’s peaceful pilgrimage is cut short when his car breaks down.
Lucky for Burt, he doesn’t need to push too far before reaching
some semblance of civilization. Repairs should only take a couple
days. Until then, Malone can simply enjoy the countryside.
couple days to take in the scenery aren’t in the cards.
misguided patriot by the name of Delaney (aka Cliff Robertson, aka The
Man) has his eye on taking over the town for his own nefarious reasons
(world domination, ethnic cleansing, a mini-mall - take your pick).
There’s only a handful of townsfolk
who have yet to succumb to the tyrant’s demands; one of them being Paul
Barlow, the owner of the gas station servicing Malone’s vehicle.
Burt Reynolds, of
course, never misses an opportunity to stick it to The Man. It doesn’t take long before
he lays a whuppin’ on two of Delaney’s goons (B-movie staples Tracey
Walter and Dennis Burkley!). Delaney
knows a professional when he sees one.
He knows it’ll take all of his evil resources to eliminate a man
who sports a mustache that big. But
even though Malone is “all that” and a bucket of chicken, he’ll
nevertheless have to muster all of his ass-kickin’ prowess to rid the
town of Delaney.
A simple story which
serves its purpose. Malone is
a bad ass, and Delaney is a bad guy.
Insert a conflict of interest, a few innocent bystanders, add
several guns, combine and stir. Malone
wastes little time with unnecessary exposition or subplots.
The director realizes we’re here for mindless carnage, and Malone
delivers. You’re not going
to see a thousand car pile-up ala The Matrix; nor will you witness
Burt Reynolds fighting two hundred Shaolin monks from atop a bamboo ladder
(regardless of how cool that might be).
Malone is more in the vein of men being shot at point-blank
range and blood squibs that can only be described as “gratuitous” in
their expenditure. I’ll
take the simplicity of bones breaking and bullets exploding out a
redneck’s back over shoddy CGI any
However, I cannot, in
good conscience, say that Malone has something for everyone.
It’s not flashy. You’re not going to see any fireworks in terms of acting
when Burt Reynolds and Dennis Burkley exchange dialogue. Basically, it all sums up to an adrenalized adaptation of
“The Dukes of Hazzard,” except with more violence.
And there’s no Daisy, Rosco or Cletus.
And I guess there aren’t very many car chases, either.
On second thought, it really has very little to do with “The
Dukes of Hazzard.” Forget I
brought it up.
is a simple, old-fashioned action movie.
And to be completely honest, after a summer of blockbuster SFX
extravaganzas, a little simplicity goes a long way.
for more Malone fun!
2003, J. Bannerman