Simply put and to the point when asked just who he is. Burt Reynolds stars as the title character in this above average entry from the days when his career seemed to be sliding towards endless straight to video releases.
Burt is portraying a burned out C.I.A. operative who wants “out” as he explains to Lauren Hutton over the first few minutes of the film. He quietly moves on finding himself in the backwoods country of scenic British Columbia subbing in for the good ole U.S. of A. Car trouble leaves him stranded and thankful for the hospitality of a small town’s gas station owner played by Scott Wilson. Wilson has a young daughter played by Cynthia Gibb who will soon find herself looking up to the new visitor in the house.
Essentially what Reynolds has drifted in to here is a plot very much akin to Shane. “The Burt” takes on the Alan Ladd role, Wilson the Van Heflin part and Miss Gibb in a gender swap, the Brandon de Wilde role of little Joey. Even Gibb’s name in the script is Jo. It seems that the valley town is being bought up by a land developer with plenty of cash and muscle causing troubles for those that don’t want to sell. In the Shane film it was Emile Meyer while this time out it’s a poor man’s Bond villain played by Cliff Robertson. Rather than add a Jean Arthur character, the script has made Wilson a widower.
Burt’s silent tough guy is quick to pick up on the tension in the community and Robertson’s thugs want to know just who the stranger is living with Wilson at the filling station. Time for Burt to tangle with the behemoth, Dennis Burkley and the rascally Tracey Walter. The secrets out that Burt isn’t one to be tangling with when he leaves one man brutalized beyond repair and the other with a hole through his chest thanks to an oversized hand gun. All of this falls at the desk of Kenneth McMillan as the county sheriff who isn’t sure what side he’s on but knows that Robertson holds the power. “I bought your badge. Not your opinion.”
Cliff soon becomes rather enamored of the stranger in town and appreciates his style and penchant for violence. When he calls in a favor in political circles, he’s handed a file on Burt and like most any film that features some rugged stranger, we’re to find out that Burt has a record a mile long in the service and has many outstanding military accomplishments. He’s not to be taken lightly and has proven to be quite deadly to those he views as enemies.
Cliff soon makes the call to bring in some out of town professionals to take out Burt. A name actor would have been welcome here as a sub for Jack Palance’s killer in Shane. Miss Hutton will be sent in to the area to look after our hero when he narrowly escapes death during the first attempted “hit” on his life. Thankfully Burt is a quick healer from a gunshot wound to the side as the script quickly puts him in the sack for some love making with Miss Hutton. Just watch the hair Lauren, Burt keeps it perfectly fluffed.
Reynolds like Alan Ladd is in too deep and when Robertson escalates the violence too far leaving one of our named actors dead, Burt goes in for the kill. Robertson knows he’s coming and welcomes the challenge behind his army of gun wielding thugs.
While Burt might have been past his prime and that wig wasn’t helping any, I could care less. I’m a child of the latter part of the Burt Reynolds era and was just the right age to buy into the Reynolds product. Both the action star of White Lighting and the good ole boy routine most notably on display in Smokey and the Bandit. For some more fun on “The Burt” give this a look see.
Malone was directed by Harley Cokliss who just one year prior to this had directed another actioner with a well known cast, Black Moon Rising. The late Cliff Robertson goes back to the fifties in films like The Naked and The Dead and even put in an appearance on the TV show Riverboat that starred Burt alongside Darren McGavin. Miss Hutton had already starred with Reynolds in the 1976 sequel to White Lightning, Gator.
Then there is Scott Wilson who kicked off his career in 1967 by starring in two highly respected films, In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood. Viewers of a younger age may know him for his time spent as Herschel for a number of The Walking Dead episodes.
Malone is another title rescued from obscurity by Kino Lorber for fans just like me.