Monday, March 19, 2012

Malone DVD Review

Based on the novel “Shotgun” by William Wingate, this drama depicts an ex-CIA hit man on the run from the government who stumbles into a real-estate swindle/murder plot in Oregon.  The movie stars Burt Reynolds, Cynthia Gibb, Scott Wilson, Lauren Hutton, Cliff Robertson, Kenneth McMillan and was directed by Harley Cokliss. This movie is being released through a Manufacturing on Demand program that gives movie fans an option to get older movies that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to purchase.  I was curious to see how those discs turned out and because I’m a fan of Burt Reynolds, I asked to review this movie.  Read on to discover how it turned out…

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The movie opens during a mission where a target has been designated to be assassinated by the Central Intelligence Agency.  The man assigned to take the shot is “Richard Malone” (Burt Reynolds) but he has grown tired of killing and doesn’t want anything to do with it anymore.  Despite being warned to go through on the mission by his friend and colleague Jamie (Lauren Hutton), Malone abandons the mission before completion and decides to leave the C.I.A. Jamie warns him that he can’t just walk away since he knows too much, but Malone changes his identity and drops off the grid in a bid for freedom.
Traveling from town to town to keep moving so it’s harder to track him, Malone’s ’69 Mustang breaks down in the middle of nowhere in Oregon.  Pushing his car to the nearest service station he can find, Malone meets the owner Paul Barlow (Scott Wilson) and his young daughter Jo (Cynthia Gibb).  Since the car is a classic, parts are harder to come by so Paul lets Malone know that it will take several days before the parts arrive.  After talking with Malone, Paul feels that they share a kinship based on similar military histories and invites Malone to stay with them until the parts arrive which makes Jo happy since she’s instantly attracted to the mysterious older Malone.
Malone soon hears about the local trouble that’s going on since a man named Charles Delaney (Cliff Robertson) has been buying up all of the houses and businesses in the area for an unknown reason.  Delaney’s henchmen have been intimidating the locals into selling which soon happens to Paul when the goons show up threatening him.  Soon enough, Malone steps in and starts interfering with Delaney’s plans which are never fully revealed.  Since Delaney owns the town including the police force, things get pretty rough for Malone.  When Delaney has Malone taken into custody by the sheriff, Malone’s information and fingerprints go out across the wire which is noticed by the C.I.A. who send Jamie out to bring Malone in.  Originally, Malone just wanted to protect Paul and Jo, but didn’t really want to get involved further but when someone personal to him is killed by Delaney’s men, Malone decides to take the fight to them.
This was a pretty good film albeit with a lot of flaws.  Delaney’s motives are all over the place and never clearly defined.  We know he has some kind of political aspirations, he has some kind of a white supremacist cult, and at the end he has some kind of a control room which could be for anything.  Cliff Robertson does a good job with what he was given to do, but it’s a glaring flaw in the movie and I don’t understand why they didn’t bother to clear it up. Scott Wilson is always good in everything he does, but just like every other role I see him in, he always looks like he’s on the verge of crying.  It’s kind of weird because there’s no reason for it most of the time, but he’s so likable that you can overlook it.  Cynthia Gibb is also good as the formulaic daughter who has to balance her attraction to Malone with her concern about her father’s welfare.  Lauren Hutton is barely in the movie and is almost unrecognizable in this role.
That brings us to Burt Reynolds, whom I’ve always liked as far back as I can remember.  He proved his acting chops in Deliverance, he showed his mischevious side in Smokey and the Bandit, and led a band of crazy celebrities in a madcap race in the Cannonball Run movies (see my review here), and for a long time he was the box office king of the world.  There have been many theories on why he lost that crown, some say it was his movie choices, others say he seemed to stop caring, but I think it was because of the injury he sustained filming City Heat with Clint Eastwood, where Reynolds was seriously injured during a stunt and had his jaw broken.  Because of that, he lost around thirty pounds and looked weak for his following movies.  In Malone, Reynolds looks thin but in decent shape but seems tired and worn out.  I’m sure part of that is part of his portrayal, but the famous twinkle in his eye is long gone.  I always hoped for a major comeback for him which did occur for him on television with “Evening Shade,” but he never dominated the movies like he did before.  This is a decent movie but it’s not at the level that Reynolds usually delivers or deserves.

Video (3 out of 5 stars) 

This is a manufactured on demand release with a note saying “These films have been manufactured from the best-quality video master currently available and have not been remastered or restored specifically for these DVD releases.”  That said, the quality of this movie with its anamorphically enhanced (1.85:1) transfer was actually better than I thought it would be.  Even though nothing special was done to restore it, it looked like and average DVD.  This isn’t anywhere close to Blu-ray quality, but for a MoD disc this looks pretty good.  Detail is acceptable, colors are somewhat washed out but still definable, and the black levels were average but not as solid as I would have liked. There’s some dirt and scratches at the start of the film but it gets better as it goes on. There’s some grain present as well, but it’s not so bad as to be distracting.   Since you can’t get this movie any other way on DVD, I’m pretty happy overall with this.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars) 

This film’s Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix is also acceptable but nothing to get excited about.  The dialogue is clear and understandable and the effects are also suitably delivered, but don’t expect too much from this mix.  This is a front channel mix with only a little action being given to the rear speakers.  One drawback to being a MoD disc is that there’s no subtitles or close captions so if you need those, you might want to pass on this.

Special Features (0 out of 5 stars) 

There are no special features on this disc which is really going to hurt the final score.

Final Thoughts (2 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This is a decent but not great movie and the disc is also fairly average, but I applaud every studio that offer the manufacture on demand program for movies that would never see the light of day otherwise.  Reynolds is only giving about 50% of his usual charisma but that’s still more than a lot of other actors can deliver on their best day.
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