Smokey And The Bandit


When pondering the nature of the redneck action comedy, there’s two titles that immediately spring to mind. One is the the infamous, Eastwood and an orangutan, two-fisted, buddy movie, Any Which Way But Loose and the other is that grand high poobah of trailer park camp, Smokey And The Bandit and its somewhat disconcerting exactly how much the latter has permeated my consciousness.
To give some context, when I was knee-high to a discarded Coors can, the cop avoiding adventures of Bo “Bandit” Darville would comfortably be described as a family movie the entire unit would sit around and watch whenever it showed up on the TV despite glorifying drunk driving, disrespect of the law and scattering the term “beaver” around a surprising amount. And yet years later, that potent mix of good ol’ boy charm and Burt Reynolds’ unstoppable moustache still manages to get my engine running the very second we get three bars into Jerry Reed’s banjo-tastic “East Bound And Down”.


Loaded Texan father and son team, Big Enos Burdette and his son Little Enos, have a racer sponsored in the Atlanta Southern Classic and want to celebrate in style when he emerges victorious. Thus they need a trucker crazy enough to deliver 400 cases of Coors beer to Atlanta in 28 hours – however, the catch is that the closest place it could legally be sold at the time was Texarkana and thus transporting it over state lines would be an act of bootlegging punishable by jail. The man the Burdettes choose to perform this virtually impossible task is the legendary trucker known as the Bandit, an impossibly charismatic driver who stands to make $80,000 if he’s successful.
Enlisting good buddy Cledus “Snowman” Snow to drive the big, 18 wheeler, Bandit buys a black, Pontiac Trans Am so sexy it would make a mannequin wet and uses it to play “blocker” by breaking traffic laws in order to keep the attention of the highyway police away from their illegal cargo.
The journey to Texarkana goes without a hitch, but on the way back, Bandit is waved down by runaway bride, Carrie, who leaps into his car, wedding dress and all, and tells him to put the peddle to the metal, fast. It seems that dancer Carrie is on the run after coming to her senses, but her actions has put Bandit in the radar of tyrannically pompous Texas lawman, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, who’s witless, infantile son, Junior was supposed to be who she was marrying.
And so the chase continues over state lines and causing countless police cars from various different departments to total themselves in a vain attempt to chase down this folk hero in a cowboy hat.
Can Bandit, Carrie and Snowman make their deadline on time, or will Sheriff T. Justice manage to stop the flow of Coors into Atlanta by running our heroes in?


When judging Smokey And The Bandit by todays standards, you may be forgiven for thinking that you’ve been slipped some extra-potent moonshine as you try and get your head around some of the details the movie hurls your way. Let’s just look at that synopsis again carefully – a guy makes an impossible and highly illegal beer run for no other reason than he fancies a challenge and on the way he causes countless accidents that decimates the vehicles of countless policemen. It’s frankly ridiculous as hell and even beats the horribly dated DVD theft from the first Fast And The Furious movie for having the most tenuous reason to have a magnetic, outlaw, leading man dangerously burn rubber on public highways. But to quote the Bandit himself: “When you tell somebody something, it depends on what part of the United States you’re standin’ in as to just how dumb you are.” – which essentially means that even though the moral ramifications of the film are as questionable as being handed a $3 bill, it also means that the dated nature of the film makes it even more fun to pick apart now.
Simply put, the movie is just a random excuse to have a bunch of southern boys get tanked, get laid and flip off the law in a way that makes the Duke brothers seem like Elliot Ness in comparison and to declare Smokey And The Bandit as silly seems an awful lot like complaining that the sea is too wet – or that Reynolds’ moustache is too awesome.
Maybe it’s just all the memories of watching it as a kid, or maybe it’s because after all this time, Hal Needham’s trailer park version of a screwball comedy is still legitimately charming despite being an unofficial advert for Coors that insists the beverage is worth breaking traffic laws. Needham, in case you wasn’t aware was an ex-stuntman who, at some point or another, broke the majority of bones in his body while doubling actors like Reynolds and many others as one of Hollywood’s most prolific stuntmen and then eventually made the switch to directing movies. His humour may not exactly be high-brow (think Tom And Jerry meets Dominic Toretto), but as a living cartoon it harkens back to a simpler time when calling someone a “Tick turd” would be guaranteed to bring the fucking house down.


Practically born to play the titular the role of Bandit is Burt Reynolds who, with that cheeky grin and even cheekier chuckle somehow immediately makes everything he’s trying to do utterly acceptable while Sally Field radiates pure Americana as the jabbering dancer who hitches a fateful ride. Is their romance a nuanced love story for the ages? Fuck no, but it’s a good pairing that allows for some good banter. However, a pantomime on wheels such as this is only as good as its villain, and waddling into the role, sneer on his face and pinky finger extended, is comedy legend Jackie Gleason as the monstrous Buford T. Justice who goes all out to bring the pretentious, pencil-stached, blowhard to life. Arriving on screen to his own villainous theme (beautiful touch), barks lines like “I’m gonna barbeque yo’ ass in molasses!” and continuously acts in an abusive and bigoted manner – which ends up being fairly acceptable considering he’s the bad guy.
Containing some sterling characters (aside from Justice, the sight of 6 foot 8 Pat McCormick next to the diminutive form of Paul William’s as Big and Little Enos is gold) and and a pace that hauls ass like the iconic Pontiac, there’s still going to be some that simply isn’t going to get the cartoonish vibe or think that the stunts are a bit quaint compared to the modern stuff, but then that’s a danger for any movie made in the 70’s whether they had consequence-free bar fights or multiple car pile-ups or not.


Creatures of their time Bo Danville and his fellow cast of characters may be, but push past the odd off-colour comment and a distracting obsession with hot pants and you’ll find the film is loaded with personality and flavour that’s as fun to chew on as all that CB speak.
Over and out, good buddy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s