Monday, February 22, 2010

White Lightning

(I mean holy Christ just look at this!)

Burt Reynolds has for whatever reason never really been my favorite member of the badass pantheon. I mean you have Clint Eastwood, and Charles Bronson, and Steve McQueen right next to him. Why would you’ve got porter house steak, what on earth would possess you to open up a tin of spam.

Maybe its because by the time I came of cinematic age he was already a punch line, maybe its because so many of his films are so frankly bad, maybe because he tied himself so thoroughly with Dom DeLuise. For whatever reason, the love I had for Burt Reynolds was like the love you have for a creepy uncle, who you can’t really hate because you know your Dad loves him. The Longest Yard is when he bought you a sandwich, Deliverance was him sending you twenty bucks on your birthday, just about everything else he made was when he took you alone inside his creepy van and showed you this.

Well those terrible memories exorcised thanks to White Lightening, which is the equivalent of your creepy uncle letting you borrow his new non creepy car for the weekend and finding a hundred dollars left for you in the glove compartment taped to a sack of weed. In short its pretty righteous. How righteous? Go back up and look at that poster. Click on it. Let the beauty really sink in. Not enough huh? Well how about this poster of Burt Reynolds as FUCKING ZEUS!

(Not pictured: Terrified Greek Peasant shitting his pants.)

White Lightning is the rarest of all things a grindhouse movie THAT LIVES UP TO ITS POSTERS!

White Lightning plays like a Drive By Trucker’s album on film. A tale of darkness, the south, manhood and vengeance. It is without reservation one of the greatest Hicksploitation films ever made.

White Lightning opens with two law officer’s paddling out into a southern swap. They tow a boat behind them which takes a minute to come into frame. And holy shit there’s two bound and gagged long hairs there, cinderblocks tied to their legs. The sequence is pretty fantastic, really drawn out and taking its time to exploit the hopelessness of the situation, aided immensely by Charles Bernstein’s sparse eerie score (used to great effect by Tarantino in Basterds). The law officers stop, untie their tow line and then almost casually blast a hole in the bottom of their victim’s boat with a shotgun, and watch as the frantic hippies sink into the fetid swamp…

Holy shit. Now that’s how you start a freaking movie. From the word go White Lightning lets you know it means business.

Unfortunately for the law officers they chose to kill the wrong hippies. Because next thing we know we’re in prison and Burt Reynolds is being informed of his brother’s death. Oops. Reynold’s with a year left on his sentence and not being the patient type, decides to turn states evidence to get to the corrupt sheriff behind it all.

White Lightning is an interesting film because it takes care to examine Reynold’s persona. He’s an informer, normally a cardinal sin in the movies even for the right reasons (has anyone ever rooted for the “hero” in White Heat?) but doesn’t really give a shit for the government or anybody else. He’s southern as a chicken coop but doesn’t fit in with the corrupt good ole boy culture of traditional Dixielanders, or the “new south” college kids who condescend to him when he tries to pump them for information. He’s not even really a rebel, he just stubbornly doesn’t belong.

The rest of White Lightning isn’t much different from your average Reynold’s vehicle, there’s car chases, moon shining, nekkid Daisy Mae types, cop hasslin’, and of course a good deal of wrasslin’. But its got a mean streak a mile wide that keeps it interesting, and Reynold’s hyper masculine presence holding it all together at the center. This movie just plain kicks ass.


Neil Fulwood said...

This needs a re-release, right now, with your marvellous "like a Drive By Truckers album on film" quote emblazoned on the poster.

Bryce Wilson said...

Thank you sir. Who knows maybe it'll get Burt Reynolds to actually give a fuck again.

Neil Fulwood said...

Stranger things have happened.