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  Malone Hell Toupee
Year: 1987
Director: Harley Cokeliss
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Cliff Robertson, Kenneth McMillan, Cynthia Gibb, Scott Wilson, Lauren Hutton, Philip Anglim, Tracey Walter, Dennis Burkley, Alex Diakun, Brooks Gardner, Mike Kirton, Duncan Fraser, Janne Mortil, Campbell Lane, Tom McBeath, Don S. Davis
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Malone (Burt Reynolds) had a job to do, but this one was the straw that broke the camel's back: he was a hitman for the C.I.A., and had murdered many people in the name of the United States, but there came a time when he just could not look down the sights of his rifle any longer, and gave up the life. His handler, Jamie (Lauren Hutton) was not able to persuade him otherwise and he took off into the Northwest, driving around almost aimlessly until one day his car broke down in Oregon. He pushed it to the nearest garage, where the owner, Paul Barlow (Scott Wilson), recommended he take it to a more comprehensive establishment many miles away. Malone said he wasn't in any hurry and the parts were ordered instead - but there's something not right here.

By 1987 Burt Reynolds' star was on the wane, from the biggest box office draw of the nineteen-seventies and early eighties to appearing in routine action thrillers that nobody seemed much interested in. He had coasted on middling material before, but you could put that down to star power, as at this point new, younger stars were taking his place and he didn't seem to have what it took to be one of the stars of his generation who had the staying power to headline blockbusters anymore. Here he appeared to be taking note of Clint Eastwood's career, essentially doing a Burt as Clint impression, a man of a few, well-chosen words rather than the wisecracking good ol' boy that had been his stock in trade.

Both Reynolds and Eastwood appealed to much the same fanbase - you could imagine a fan of one being a fan of the other one with no issues with loyalty whatsoever - yet somehow Clint had what it took to command respect in the movie world, arguing with chairs aside, and Burt became a relic with not much potential for comebacks. This was why it was a little dispiriting to see him acting out a role in the style of a rival star, but the truth was he was perfectly fine doing it, and Malone has gone on to be a thriller that did piffling business when it was first released, but was rediscovered on video and television showing and generated a fan following among those who thought, wait a minute, this wasn't half bad.

There was the risk that Burt was now difficult to take seriously, and while there was not a hint of parody in his performance his appearance was another matter, still rocking the moustache and toupee, and dressed "smart casual" throughout which even at the time didn't look too convincing as anything other than over the hill. Fortunately, you could tell Reynolds still believed in himself, and that sincerity came across in his moody demeanour that would only crack and allow his humanity to shine through when he was conversing with Barlow's teenage daughter Jo (Cynthia Gibb) who acted as the Brandon de Wilde to his Alan Ladd, only Alan Ladd wouldn't have planted a big kiss on the little boy as Burt does to Cynthia here - Hutton's CIA agent seems to have been involved mainly to provide a more age appropriate love interest since Jo was not available.

But what of the bad guys? They were led by Delaney (Cliff Robertson), not only a white supremacist but a pretty much everything supremacist, a super-patriot businessman who is buying up communities across America to rule them with his militia as a new form of President, in his own mind at least. He leads an army of sharp-suited heavies whose approach to life screams entitlement, their self-confidence just itching to be taken down a peg or two by a man of action like Malone, though the film had us wait some time before that inevitable showdown, with brief bursts of excitement as our hero tussles with the evildoers and those who have been manipulated to do their bidding. In an unusual move for this genre, Malone was almost shot dead halfway through, adding a note of vulnerability though he is up and fighting fit in time for the grand finale where just desserts were served with a scowl from the star. No, it wasn't tearing up the rule book, but for what it was this delivered a very decent action thriller in the neo-Western mode. Music by David Newman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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