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Aging stuntman Sonney Hooper is still on top as one of the best stuntmen in the business. But up and coming Ski is starting to do bigger and better stunts. Hooper has the experience to setup a stunt safely, and Ski lacks the common sense to know when a stunt is too dangerous. Maybe together, along with their fun loving buddies, they can do a stunt together that will surpass anything that anyone has done. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
My parents ushered the young me into an 8-plex one fine afternoon prophesying an epic -- a cinematic triumph unparalleled since the days of Bergman. Disgruntled at my forebears' refusal to consent to a screening of Jaws 2, I nonetheless acquiesced and slumped into the screening room.
When I emerged a scant two hours later, I was no longer a callow youth. I had become a man.
Screen legend Burt Reynolds offers one of his most insightful, well-rounded performances as Sonny Hooper, an Achilles with a mustache, seemingly foredoomed to the stuntman slag heap by the onset of middle age. Playing the part with the gusto and verve of a man four-fifths his age, Reynolds achieves newfound heights without seeming to crack a script, winking slyly at the merry romp he has conjured. Sally (The Flying Nun) Field (who by some incredible chance happened to be dating Reynolds) plays the groundbreaking role of Hooper's common-law girlfriend, Gwen Doyle (a name so lilting and memorable, I promptly bestowed it upon all six of my goldfish). Field embodies the universal theme of a woman struggling to come to terms with a life she has neither chosen nor can escape. Kneepad-deep in beer cans, forced to wear short shorts, physically lifted and repositioned like an arc light or rubber tree, she personifies the objectification of women by the stuntmen who are themselves objectified by the studio hacks (Robert Klein) who employ them. As the winsome, perky daughter of stunt-osaurus Jocko Doyle (Brian Keith), Field set the standard by which all future stuntman's daughter roles would be be measured.
Central to the success of this story are the providential appearances of such childhood icons as James (Rosco P. Coletrane) Best, Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Bradshaw (utterly convincing as a man who gets hit in the face), and the impeccable Adam (Batman) West, who plays an actor respected enough that a film crew protectively prevents him from jumping over the side of a building. The absence of the sublime Dom DeLuise marks this film's only flaw, forgiveable considering that by this point in his trajectory, DeLuise had priced himself out of the market.
Shining through it all, dazzling in his wit, pathos, and imperfect grandeur, stands the linchpin, Burt Reynolds. Whether baring his bottom for a Xylocaine booster or outwitting the police by driving his pickup backwards, Reynolds inhabits the role so effortlessly, he seems to glide along like Clark Gable atop his Rhett Butler waltzing simulator.
Although this film had an unintentional rite-of-passage effect upon me, I was subsequently disillusioned to learn that Mr. Reynolds was not a stuntman, but an actor. Granted, the greatest actor to grace the silver screen since John Larroquette (who actually came later, but the comparison still stands), but still an actor.
It took years of therapy before I again began to trust.
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