the fresh films reviews

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Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Hal Needham
Smokey and the Bandit
96 minutes
Mort Engelberg
James Lee Barrett
Charles Shyer
Alan Mandel

Cast includes:

Bandit Burt Reynolds
Sherrif Buford T. Justice Jackie Gleason
Carrie Sally Field
Cledus Snow Jerry Reed
Junior Justice Mike Henry



The idea and carefreeness that - behind and in front of the camera encompassed the conception of Smokey and the Bandit is probably a forever lost one. This is something that in retrospect makes this film the most notable advocate for the all-American, freedom-embracing highway culture of the pre-environment-conscious times of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. What Hal Needham did here, in addition to having tons of fun together with his high-flying, chronically cheerful moustached pal, was to present us with the logical successor to the cowboy, and bring the western movie a new format. The horse was replaced with horse power, and the smell of manure and camp fire was replaced with the odour of diesel and hamburgers.

The form of Smokey and the Bandit is ridiculously recognizable, down to the last banal chase and the last one-dimensional characterization of the freedom-restricting enemy (read: law enforcer), but this far from cushions the fun and wonderfully blithe nature of not only the film itself, but the entire culture and time period it depicts. For what Smokey and the Bandit represented for the American (and for the contemporary Americana endorsing European colonies of US culture, including my own native Norway), was an escape from the urbanization and increasingly complex social and political situation which surfaced. What Burt Reynolds offers us here, is a return to the basal vigour of manhood, complete with the moustache and the hairy chest. And we just cannot help but want it - downright yearn for it. Perhaps even more so today, as we are about to drown (as it may seem) in our global ecological destiny.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 9.12.2007 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review:
Copyright 24.3.2000 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang