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Director: Harley Cokeliss

US - 1987

         Hoff! Hoff!         


Burt Reynolds.

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.

I kid!  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 Fear of a Bald Planet.– 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? 

Action movies nowadays are all about computer-generated hijinks and pretty boys lKalgan?ike Keanu Reeves and Josh Hartnett jumping over a flaming Chevy in slow motion while firing 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 lord.

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 politically correct.

Malone 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, MThis guy will never be out of work.alone’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. 

Unfortunately, a couple days to take in the scenery aren’t in the cards.

A power-hungry, 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 beforeThis guy, on the other hand... 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 day.

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. 

Malone 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.     

During breaks in filming, Burt likes to show the crew scenes from Cop and a Half.  


Click here for more Malone fun!



-- Copyright 2003, J. Bannerman




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