STICK - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 24, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Stick’ was a notoriously troubled production and was disowned by Elmore Leonard (who adapted his own book for the screenplay) — although director/star Burt Reynolds later said it’s not the same film he turned in. Apparently, Universal Pictures hated his movie, insisting that it be re-edited and given a different music score, along with new scenes from a different screenwriter. So a defeated Reynolds went through the motions but he didn’t like the rewrites. And the film flopped big time. Reynolds said that the first half of the film is what he was going for but the second half was a mess. With a Blu-ray upgrade available from Kino Lorber, Reynolds’ fans can judge for themselves. My review was published in the Deseret News on April 28, 1985.
Every so often Burt Reynolds takes a day off from his redneck, car crash movies to do an angry, R-rated, violent cop picture. His last one was “Sharky’s Machine,” which began with a bearded Reynolds walking along a railroad track. Then he shaved off his beard and spent the rest of the movie in his familiar mustachioed look. He also directed the film.
“Stick” begins with Reynolds in a beard walking along a railroad track. After a while, he shaves off his beard, leaves the mustache, and we’re off on another violent, R-rated crime story. He directed this one, too.
But “Stick” is not related to “Sharky’s Machine,” instead being an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s popular thriller novel, and Leonard also co-scripted the film.
Leonard is reportedly not very happy with the final product, which is probably the same way the audience will feel.
Dar Robinson, left, Burt Reynolds, 'Stick' (1985)
“Stick” has its moments, and there are some good ones, but unfortunately this is an uneven blend of broad comedy and gritty violence, which never comes to terms with itself or settles into a particular tone.
Reynolds plays the title character, Ernest Stickley, a professional car thief just out of prison after serving seven years for armed robbery. He returns home to Miami, and immediately gets mixed up in a drug deal and sees his best friend killed.
The rest of the film is basically a revenge plot as Stickley confronts underworld kingpins in an attempt to avenge his friend.
In the process Stick becomes a chauffeur to wealthy George Segal, an eccentric who enjoys hanging around criminal types; gets to know Candice Bergen, a beautiful ice queen who just hangs around as an underused love interest; and encounters—– as a weird drug dealer — Charles Durning, wearing heavy mascara and an orange fright wig.
The most interesting character in the film is played by Dar Robinson, a vicious, silent, ruthless killer who happens to be albino. He’s one of those bizarre yet extremely threatening screen villains that comes along every now and then, leaving a memorable mark on an otherwise forgettable film. (He also has the movie’s most chilling stunt work.)
Burt Reynolds as a director has done his best work in the black comedy “The End” and the aforementioned “Sharky’s Machine,” both with very good supporting casts working in ensemble fashion. But “Stick” is a star vehicle, although Reynolds, the director, doesn’t seem to understand Reynolds, the star. The result is Reynolds the star creating an interestingly offbeat character throughout the first half of the film, then wasting the second half by winking at the audience.
Bergen has nothing to do and Segal overplays his role in such a hammy fashion you’d think he was making a “Tonight Show” appearance. Durning is better but his character is never well defined.
I have not read the Leonard novel on which “Stick” is based but it would appear that the author’s screenplay was rewritten by Joseph C. Stinson to include more broad humor and make Burt Reynolds’ character more Burt Reynolds-ish.
“Stick,” rated R for violence, profanity and sex, is a major disappointment from an actor-director who has never seemed to find any real focus in his career. This film was completed before Reynolds’ recent illness, after which he claimed to have reassessed his life. Let’s hope his next films reflect a change for the better; he’s a most talented filmmaker when he’s in control.