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  Stroker Ace Fast And Loose
Year: 1983
Director: Hal Needham
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Jim Nabors, Parker Stevenson, Loni Anderson, John Byner, Frank O. Hill, Cassandra Peterson, Bubba Smith, Warren Stevens, Alfie Wise, James C. Lewis, Hunter Bruce, Cary Guffey, Jerry Reed
Genre: Comedy, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Stroker Ace (Burt Reynolds) was a little kid, he began a friendship with Lugs (Jim Nabors) which has lasted up to the present day, and it was their love of fast cars which brought them together, as often they would take a ride in a moonshine runner's truck while he was being chased by the cops. Now grown up, Stroker is a race car champion in NASCAR, which he has won three times, and is hoping to make it a fourth, but a hitch arrives when he needs sponsorship to fund his attempt. With a new, younger driver, Aubrey James (Parker Stevenson) threatening to take his crown, Stroker must get as much help as possible...

This was the movie which scuppered Burt Reynolds' career; he continued to appear in movies after it, but when none of his previously adoring fans went to see it, or nowhere near as many as before anyway, clearly the bell was tolling for his status as one of the biggest movie stars of all time. Certainly in the previous decade, the seventies, he had been the most popular leading man for years, but perhaps the audience felt they were growing tired of him appearing in much the same guise over and over again, that in spite of him willing to perform variations on his familiar persona, both serious and comedic.

In this case Burt was returning to work with his old friend Hal Needham in the director's chair, surely as a guarantee of another major hit in the vein of their Smokey and the Bandit, and with the same sense of humour mixed with impressive car stunts. But warning alarms set off straight away when you see the footage of the crashes are not staged especially for the movie, but stock footage which is even shot on video, revealing Needham simply secured recordings from some sports channel or other rather than go to the expense of creating his own. Then again, so little time is spent on the track until the finale that you would be forgiven for not knowing how Stroker's season was going.

Right up to the point some character mentions he has another chance at winning, anyway, for the business leading up to the end race was more concerned with building up a grudge against Ned Beatty's fried chicken emporium magnate who takes over Stroker's contract, much to the driver's chagrin. This forces him to have the legend "The Fastest Chicken in the World" written on the side of his car and even worse, appear in promotions which often see him dressed in a chicken outfit (we can see his face so we know it's Burt), so he starts acting up, aware if he gets Beatty's owner mad then he will terminate the contract. There may well be bitterness about just how showbiz treats entertainers like Reynolds and Needham here, but the movie had bigger problems than that. This was the only work Reynolds and his girlfriend, then wife, sitcom star Loni Anderson, appeared in together.

She naturally plays the love interest, Pembrook Feeney, who is Beatty's advertising representative and thinks up those promotions for Stroker to humiliate himself in, then when she joins the driver's side, to assist in scrapping that infernal contract. But there was a less healthy tone to her appearances, even before their much-publicised break up in real life which painted Reynolds as some kind of ego monster, so you had Stroker determined to take Pembrook's virginity, and to that end getting her drunk to do so. When she passes out in an infamous scene which turned many off the movie, he begins to strip her while making asides to the camera, though the scene fades out before we see him go further. Even Beatty tries to rape her until she kicks him in the "scrotum", so there's an uncomfortable pall over the proceedings for the rest of the running time, and that's before Stroker visits violence on Aubrey, all supposed to be amusing but pushing someone through a plate glass window isn't hilarious. What was Elvira doing here, incidentally? Country music by Al Capps.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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