Malone (1987) – A Review
Malone (Burt Reynolds) is a CIA hit-man who gets a conscience in the middle of a job and decides to leave his violent life behind. Packed, driving and ready to start a new life his car breaks down in a small town in Oregon. There Malone befriends gas station owner Paul Barlow and his daughter Jo (Scott Wilson and Cynthia Gibb).
Malone learns the locals in town are being driven out by Charles Delany (Cliff Robertson) who’s buying all the land around and is now trying to force the Barlow’s to move out, even if it takes some threats and intimidation.
Fortunately, they have their new friend Malone on their side who is willing to use his expertise of dispatching bad guys to help them out and give Delany and his nasty goons the justice they deserve.
Long before it became trendy for aging former action stars to continue leaping over cars and shooting bad guys when they should be sitting in an easy chair watching the Weather Channel, Reynolds made a career of it throughout the 1980’s.
After being the most popular and successful movie star around in the 1970’s, by the mid-80’s his movie career just couldn’t recover from a series of consistent bad films. Perhaps it was just one too many racing comedies that did him in. Let’s face it, Stroker Ace is a tough movie to recover from.
Reynolds would find himself starring in a string of action flicks where often it appeared he would always be playing the same character. Middle-aged tough guy who’s never looking for trouble, but somehow it always finds him. Luckily he can handle any problem that comes his way.
Perhaps, I’m being a little unfair with that broad assessment, but really that’s how it always appeared to me from seeing the trailers and commercials of his action movies back in the day.
All I’d have to see is Reynolds in a leather jacket, looking serious, big toupee on his head, holding a gun and immediately I’d jump to the conclusion that this was one of those ‘Reynolds action movies that will be pretty lame’.
One of the things that movie fans remember most about Malone is not the actual movie, but the famous VHS cover that featured a bleeding Reynolds angry as all hell shooting a shotgun while standing in front of an exploding backdrop. If that image doesn’t entice someone to pick up the box than I don’t know what would!
I was expecting the worst when I sat down to watch Malone, but I have to admit I found it mildly entertaining. It’s not a great movie by any stretch. It’s predictable, formulaic and it’s all standard stuff.
But it did hold my interest the whole time. A lot of it was due to some of the ridiculousness and the ultra-serious tone that is going on. It’s much slower paced than what audiences are used to with an action movies today. There are long stretches of Reynolds conversing with his co-stars between the gunplay, but once the moments of action kick in they are fun to watch.
It’s very much a quintessential low-budget 1980’s action movie. It doesn’t have a sense of humor about itself and that’s exactly where savvy movie fans will find the humor in it. The filmmakers might not have recognized the unintended enjoyment, but it’s there!
There’s been a lot of comparisons of Malone to Shane. And I was also thought of Road House while watching it. Stranger comes to town, there’s trouble there, he takes care of the bad guys for the good folk. You could adapt this story into any time period. A version of this tale set in outer space must be out there.
So there’s a lot of henchmen confronting Burt, asking him what his name is (an ongoing joke, or was that just unintentionally funny to me?), they pick a fight with him and he cleans house with them.
This all leads up to an explosive finale as he takes the fight right up to the big bad guy’s doorstep, subsequently kills everyone and turns everything into smoldering ashes.
There’s some old-school action for 1980’s action fans. It’s not very stylish or filmed with much creativity. It looks like one of those ‘just point and shoot’ type of productions. The blood squibs at times get ridiculously huge! There’s one scene of Reynolds popping a guy with his very cool looking Magnum Pistol and it looks like a cannon hit the guy! There’s some slo-mo falls, explosions and all that action-y fun stuff. And of course it’s not an action movie without someone going through some glass windows!
You won’t find the smirking Reynolds in this one. There’s no trace of the laughing ‘good ole boy’ screen persona he floated by on for so long. He plays things very quiet and muted. I’m not entirely sure if that was acting or if it was just that he didn’t want to be doing this movie and that disgust and disinterest translated into his performance.
It’s almost jolting to see when an action star was allowed to look like Burt here. Reynold’s is paunchy, his tight jeans look silly today and his distracting toupee I couldn’t help but just keet looking at. It just looks way too big for anyone’s head!
I couldn’t figure out exactly what Robertson’s character was up to by the way. He’s some kind of patriot and wants to wipe out all bad Americans. So he stockpiles weapons and buys up all the land up in this valley to do…/something with it. It’s never really clear, but I know he was up to no good.
I wouldn’t recommend someone to run out and immediately watch this. But if you’re bored, staring at the TV, getting tired of channel surfing and stumbled onto Malone you could do a lot worse. It’s just stupid, junky entertainment.