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  Gator Good Old Bad Old Boys
Year: 1976
Director: Burt Reynolds
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Lauren Hutton, Jerry Reed, Alice Ghostley, Dub Taylor, Mike Douglas, Burton Gilliam, William Engesser, John Steadman, Lori Futch, Stephanie Burchfield, Dudley Remus, Alex Hawkins, J. Don Ferguson
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Governor (Mike Douglas) is fuming, because he has an election coming up and all anyone asks him about is the lawlessness of Dunston County. The authorities must crack down on the dodgy dealings of Bama McCall (Jerry Reed), a local gangster who has more influence there than the Governor does, but what should they do? Then someone at the meeting pipes up: they've been contacted by New York, and an official has been sent down to assist their operations. Irving Greenfield (Jack Weston) is his name, and although they are sceptical, his new colleagues have to admit he has an intriguing idea... recruit Gator McKlusky (Burt Reynolds).

Not the same Gator McKlusky from the hit film of earlier in the decade, White Lightning? The very same, as for his first movie directed by himself, Reynolds opted to return to a character who had set him on his road to Good Old Boy domination of the box office, presumably being judged a safe topic for his stylings, after all, this is what his legions of fans wanted to see him in. So like that previous effort, there were stunts, thrills, romance, comedy and drama all mixed up together and served as a somewhat hard to digest mix, as if you were eating your three course meal all on the same plate.

Nevertheless, some of it Burt managed to pull off with aplomb, perhaps thanks to the help of James Best, a star of cowboy movies here credited as an assistant to the producer, or perhaps because the star knew precisely what he wanted out of this project - after all, stunt coordinator Hal Needham, soon to direct Burt in Smokey and the Bandit, was in charge of the second unit, and must have offered some advice as well. Gator this time around is to be found in his swampland home, brewing moonshine illegally, but when the cops arrive he thinks they are after his whisky so promptly leaps into a speedboat and leads them in a merry dance - and a destructive one as well.

So the film begins as if it were going to be a rollicking comedy, with Irving ending up in the water due to his own pigheadedness, and the rest of the police seeing their boats demolished when Gator plows into them. However, if he was able to escape we wouldn't get the rest of the story, so he is caught and told what he has to do if he wants to stay out of prison, which is kind of like what he did last time, infiltrate a criminal gang, only this time the bad guys are not posing as the authorities and Gator has no personal score to settle - yet. He knows Bama from his early days - Reed makes an excellent foe - and the law are counting on him being treated as a long lost friend by the gangster, which he is to an extent, but Gator knows there's a difference between his harmless mischief-making and Bama's threatening behaviour.

Gator turns detective to find incriminating evidence to put his old pal away, but that is easier said than done. A curious thing happens once the plot has been set in motion, which has Burt attempting to show his sensitive side, so he demonstrates some tough love to one of Bama's teenage prostitutes, warms to Irving and treats him like a true friend, and starts a romance with local television reporter Aggie Maybank (Lauren Hutton) who is also trying to bring the villain down. This approachable aspect to the star makes him more sympathetic, sure, but bogs down the action in too much relationship business when what you're wanting is more of the adrenaline-charged stuff, and a few more jokes wouldn't have hurt either. There are a few quirks, such as Bama's idiosyncratic gang (with an over seven foot tall bodyguard - William Engesser - who drives about with his head poking out of the sunroof), and Alice Ghostley's character's love of cats, but really this should have been more distinctive. Music by Charles Bernstein.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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