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  Hooper Publicity Stunts
Year: 1978
Director: Hal Needham
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Jan-Michael Vincent, Sally Field, Brian Keith, John Marley, Robert Klein, James Best, Adam West, Alfie West, Terry Bradshaw, Norman Grabowski, George Furth, Jim Burk, Don 'Red' Barry, Princess O'Mahoney, Robert Tessier, Richard Tyler
Genre: Comedy, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) has been a stuntman for a long time, maybe too long, and he has the scars to prove it. With a reputation as one of the best in the business, he is happy to prove that correct time and again, though he is still finding he has to take painkillers for his aches, especially his back which is playing up even after all his operations. Even a simple stunt like today which sees him ride a motorcyle under an articulated truck then crash it to a stop, which goes very well, causes him to think his body isn't as spry as it was, and with a demanding director (Robert Klein) and up and coming stuntman Ski (Jan-Michael Vincent) the pressure is on...

Director Hal Needham of course broke into the movie business as a stuntman himself, and that's not all he broke as he gained renown as one of the greatest of all time, though he might defer to the likes of Jock Mahoney as someone he would look up to. Still, once he enjoyed one of the biggest hits of the seventies with Smokey and the Bandit with him at the helm, he finally got the chance to pay tribute to the likes of Mahoney and all the valiant men and women of action who helped him along the way. Hooper was that film, though in rather self-aggrandising fashion he also got to pay tribute to himself; mind you, considering the way in which he'd flung himself about for the sake of the silver screen, why not?

This also appeared to be Needham getting his own back on movie directors to boot, as Klein's Roger character embodied all the traits that he evidently despised, pushing the stuntmen so hard, taking them for granted, and then walking away with the glory for all their work. Actually, there was one director in particular Needham was getting his own back on here, and that was Peter Bogdanovich who he had not had the best relationship with on Nickelodeon, and what Hooper ends up doing to Roger smacked of wish-fulfilment. But that suited the rebellious nature salt of the earth Needham wanted to cultivate for his works, and in Reynolds he found his perfect leading man.

Don't forget Burt wasn't merely doing a favour for his good friend, he knew he'd be shown to his best advantage here and if it teetered on the brink of complete self-indulgence for about 99% of the running time, you were encouraged to indulge your good self as well, revelling in the humour, the action and the devil may care attitude on display. Never mind that, as if the movie was a happy drunk turning to a sad drunk, in the last act Hooper began to feel very sorry for himself and the tone grew more worried about getting over the hill, it did recover for a major setpiece which, as with all the stunts in this, would both have you marvelling at the expertise and wondering what the hell the plotline of the movie they were supposed to be making could possibly be.

The cast was packed with pals of the director and the star, with Sally Field as the love interest, Hooper's live-in girlfriend Gwen who gets to look concerned and contribute a prim bit of business to the inevitable barroom brawl - which was instigated by not only Burt putting on a crash helmet and destroying a jukebox with his head, but having said helmet broken by a thug's huge fist (!). James Best appeared as Hooper's right hand man, this around about the time he was finding genuine fame on TV's The Dukes of Hazzard, Adam West was the movie star within the movie, and the inevitable Robert Tessier showed up to hit people, all those and more offering the feeling of a group of good friends getting together and just happening to make a film in the process. Like many films centred around the art of stunts from The Stunt Man to Stunt Rock, the action would be highly improbable, yet impressive for its daring, the last sequence absolutely absurd but for the fact one director really did order it: Mr Needham. Music by Bill Justis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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