Sometimes you just want to unplug with some silly, goofy and good-hearted. This one definitely falls into that character, and it has to be over 15 years since I last sat down to watch this one, though the film’s main song, Eastbound and Down performed by country music star, Jerry Reed (who plays Cledus “Snowman” Snow in the film) seems to cycle through my head on a fairly regular basis.
Burt Reynolds is the Bandit, a wise-cracking, slick and fast driver, who agrees to a time sensitive, 4 state, 900 mile bootlegging run for a wad of cash, offered to him by Big and Little Enos (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams). Buying a new black Trans Am so he can drive as a blocker, he recruits his good buddy the Snowman, his dog Fred, and their 18-wheeler to race to Texarkana for 400 cases of Coors beer (I don’t think I would go 4 meters for a Coors beer, but no accounting for taste).
They make excellent time there, with fun CB chatter, dodging smokeys, and just being good ole boys, on the way back things get a little hairier as they race the clock, pick up a runaway bride, Carrie (Sally Field) who is being pursued by her dim fiancée (Mike Henry), and her racist (honestly I had no idea how racist this character was when I was a kid, but by making him look like an ass, it says something about his racist attitude as well), walking cliché of a southern police sheriff, Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason).
So Bandit, Snowman, and Carrie, newly christened Frog, are on the run, and hoping to make it back before their time runs out, while the armada of police cars behind them grows larger.
Bandit and Snowman are just a couple of good ole boys who aren’t really hurting anyone with their minor driving infractions, or their bootlegging, they’re just out for a good time, and I think both of them would be very upset if anyone was hurt by their actions. They may be outside the law, but they do have a bit of respect for it, which plays in nice contrast to a group of bikers that Cledus has a run-in at a choke and puke.
Not quite counter-culture, the gearjammers, CB operators, and good time folk all help out the Bandit anyway they can, letting him know about bear traps, obstructions, and hiding him out from his pursuers, making him a folk hero on his speedy journey.
Reynolds, as an actor, for me, has always been hit or miss, but when playing up the comedic angle, he’s in his element, and he’s the only one that could get away with breaking the 4th wall like he does in this film. There’s a gleam in his eye, and his delivery is incredibly relaxed and natural, making you wonder how much was acting, and how much was just having fun.
Jerry Reed not only plays Cledus, but provides most of the music for the soundtrack, letting us know the story, in case we weren’t paying attention, or had to step away to fill up on popcorn.
Sally Field is coy, serious, and with very little dialogue runs rings around Reynolds.
And only Gleason, could get away with playing his character like he does, and still making him likable, and you just love to see him get fooled by Bandit.
So I’m putting the hammer down, and I’ll be 10-10 on the side…