By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Aging cowboy steals horse.
Sonny (Robert Redford) used to be a championship rodeo star, but those days are long behind him. Now he works as a spokesmodel for a cereal company and his next gig has him in Las Vegas where he’s set to ride a horse on stage while he wears a string of flashing lights. Sonny though has become disillusioned with the business as well as upset to find that the horse has been drugged, which propels him to ride off with it while the authorities and an aggressive TV reporter (Jane Fonda) are hot on his tail.
The story can best be described as a lightly comical variation of Lonely are the Brave, but without any of the strong dramatic impact. The biggest problem is that it reveals its cards too quickly making it too obvious what Sonny is planning to do, so when he finally does y abscond with the horse it’s not surprising or even interesting. I was intrigued at how he would get it out of the casino and past security, but the movie cheats this by cutting from him inside the casino one second to showing him outside on the street in the next frame, which takes away from potential action and excitement of having him fight his way out.
The chase inside a small town where Sonny and his horse outrun a mob of police cars and cops on motorbikes is fun, but it ends up being the only exciting moment in the film. Everything else gets toned down too much where even the bad guy, played by John Saxon, is boring because all he does is sit in a office while getting reports from others as to Sonny’s whereabouts instead of having him actively chase after the renegade cowboy himself, which would’ve heightened the tension.
Fonda’s character comes off like an unwanted house guest who tries to take over the place even when they weren’t invited. Her character is too abrasive and while everyone else is laid-back she comes of as being quite aggressive and otherwise out-of-place with the tone of the movie. Valerie Perrine, who has a much smaller part as Sonny’s ex-wife, does a far better job here and is more in step with the unglamorous, rugged western theme. Had she been the one to chase after Sonny then the romantic side-story that develops would’ve been cute and engaging, but having Fonda become the love interest just makes the whole thing seem forced.
Had the action and humor been more jacked-up than it might’ve been a winner as Redford himself is quite good. I was a bit surprised too because I initially didn’t think this was the right fit for his talents, but his subtle country accent and brash attitude is fun and Willie Nelson, in his film debut, is quite good in support. Unfortunately the plot never catches its stride and in fact the more it goes on the boring it gets.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: December 16, 1979
Runtime: 2 Hours 1 Minute
Director: Sydney Pollack
Studio: Universal Pictures
Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region B/2)
Posted in 70's Movies, Cold Climate/Wintertime Movies, Dry Humor, Revisionist Western, Romance
Tagged Entertainment, Jane Fonda, John Saxon, Movies, Review, Robert Redford, valerie perrine, Willie Nelson
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: On the road again.
Buck Bonham (Willie Nelson) is a country music singer who enjoys life on the road traveling to different concert venues with his band much to the consternation of his wife Viv (Dyan Cannon) who wants him to stay home more and help raise their child. When his longtime guitarist Garland (Slim Pickens) decides to retire they bring in Garland’s daughter Lily (Amy Irving) as a temporary replacement. Then Buck starts fooling around with Lily, which creates turmoil both with Buck’s relationship with his wife as well as Lily’s relationship with her father.
After his successful stint in Electric Horseman this film was supposed to send Nelson to the next level as a leading man, but fails miserably because the guy just can’t act. In fact he conveys his lines in such a laid back manner it’s almost like he’s half-asleep and not even there. His screen presence is nil and he ends up being badly upstaged by both Cannon and Pickens. I realize he is considered a country music legend and has many adoring fans, but personally his trembling voice type of singing is not for me. Out of the many, MANY songs that he sings during the course of this picture the only one I even remotely liked was ‘A Song for You’ and even then I consider the Leon Russell version to be far superior.
The film like its star is too laid back. It takes a full 30 minutes before we get anything even resembling a plot going. There’s lots of concert footage and scenes taken on their traveling bus, which to some extent gives the viewer a good taste of what life on the road is like, but then it becomes excessive. It’s almost like a concert movie with the slightest of plots intermittingly mixed in for good measure. The story itself is too obvious and takes too long to play out and then when it finally gets going and we have some actual dramatic tension it then resolves too quickly.
Cannon is pretty good and even does her own singing. Irving on the other hand seems in-over-her-head and looks quite uncomfortable playing on stage. She got nominated for a Razzy award for worst supporting actress and I felt it was well deserved. Rodeo clown-turned-actor Pickens is super in one of his best roles that allows him to show both his comedic and dramatic side. Lane Smith is hilarious in a brief, but funny stint as an aggressive agent looking to get his client, a guitarist who wears some very loud suits, into the band while also trying to push some cheesy money making schemes on the side.
The part where Pickens attacks Nelson with a gun and chases him all around a lonely beach is amusing as is their drunken bus ride along an isolated Mexican highway. I also liked Irving meeting with her father after the secret of her affair has come out as well as her moment of apology to Cannon, but this all comes during the film’s final 20 minutes. Before then it’s just a lot of stock footage of Nelson on stage, which is nice if you enjoy his singing, but not if you’re looking for an actual movie, which at times this barely seems to be.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: July 18, 1980
Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes
Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video
Posted in 80's Movies, Comedy/Drama, Movies that take place in Texas, Musical, Remakes, Road Movies, Romance
Tagged Amy Irving, Dyan Cannon, Entertainment, Lane Smith, Movies, Review, Slim Pickens, Willie Nelson