Sunday, August 09, 2015

11: Smokey and the Bandit

I'm joking, right? Nope. I love this film.

The premise is extraordinarily simple: Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed have to drive from Atlanta to Texarkana, pick up lots of a specific brand of beer, and drive it back to Atlanta all within 28 hours. Which, given this is 1977, means they're going to be doing two illegal things: firstly driving at substantially over the nationally-mandated speed limit of 55mph (oil crisis hangover) and secondly transporting Coors beer east of Texas/Oklahoma, which at the time was illegal, and bootleggers - if successful - could make a lot of money doing it, although as well as the law they had to fight the issue of the beer having no preservatives or stabilizers, which possibly explains the 28-hour limit for completing the task, given that the truck in the film doesn't appear to be refrigerated.

All of which means, well, car chases. You have a very quick sequence of plot set-up and getting to Texas, realising that it's early Sunday morning so everywhere is shut, leading to breaking in and stealing said beer. Then most of the movie is taken up with them trying to get back to Atlanta, which amounts to a series of set-piece car chases and a sucession of police tactics being overcome in a variety of ways by Reynolds, Reed and various friends they know along the way. And stringing along through this is another thread - while in Texas, Reynolds (driving the Trans-Am 'blocker' car) somehow picks up Sally Field wearing a wedding dress, and ends up taking her (very willingly) along for the ride, as she is busy running out on a wedding to the son of a local policeman. Naturally, said policeman (played brilliantly by Jackie Gleason, yes him from The Honeymooners) and his son end up as the core of the chase, following them all the way to Atlanta as their car gradually gets mashed up and in the process. And all these chases are backed by banjo-driven trucking-country music mostly from Jerry Reed himself, of which the strongest is the song 'Eastbound and Down'.

But even then that's not enough to really get it into number 11. For that you need the dialogue also. And the quotes are very very good, witty without being too intellectual (it's not an intellectual kind of a movie) and mostly just flat-out funny:

"You have a great profile."
"Yeah, I do, don't I? Especially from the side."
"Well, at least we agree on something."
"Yeah. We both like half of my face."

"Tell me, why are we doing this?"
"For the good old American life: For the money, for the glory, and for the fun. [pause] Mostly for the money."

"The fact that you are a sheriff is not germane to the situation."
"The god damn Germans got nothin' to do with it!"

And if you put it all together, along with the triumphant run for the line where Jerry Reed pulls the truck in front of the Trans-Am and blasts through the final blockade, you have a feel-good movie in which pace, humour and characters abound. And as I've said before, it's my list.

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