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STICK

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Another Burt Reynolds 1980s flick, this one had a troubled production history and came out much later than originally announced. Later, Reynolds explained that the studio hated his original version and forced him to reshoot and re-edit the film. More than 30 years after its theatrical premiere it finally came to DVD in 2009 on the Universal Vault Series label. 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. Shortly thereafter, he shaved off his beard and spent the rest of the film 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, which Leonard also co-scripted.

Leonard is reportedly not very happy with the final product, which is probably the same way the audience will feel.

     

                Candice Bergen, Burt Reynolds, 'Stick'

“Stick” has its moments, and there are some good ones, but unfortunately this is an uneven blend of broad comedy and gritty violence that 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 Dar Robinson’s silent, vicious, 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 film’s most chilling stunt work.)

     

Burt Reynolds as a director has done his best work in the black comedy “The End” and “Sharky’s Machine,” both with very good actors 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 interesting, 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 Johnny Carson 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 Reynoldish.

“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 to 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.