Tuesday, April 19, 2022

#2,741. Hooper (1978) - Quentin Tarantino Recommends


Quentin Tarantino has stated that his chief inspiration for the characters of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth (played, respectively, by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt) in 2019’s Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood was the long-time partnership between actor Burt Reynolds and his good friend, stuntman-turned-filmmaker Hal Needham.

Needham, who was Reynolds’ stunt double in such early ‘70s movies as White Lightning and Gator, went on to direct some very popular action-comedies, most starring his good buddy Burt. So it’s only fitting that their second collaboration as actor and director, after the 1977 Box-Office smash Smokey and the Bandit, would be Hooper, a movie in which Burt plays… a Hollywood stuntman!

Sonny Hooper (Reynolds) is believed by many to be the best stuntman in all of Tinseltown. His reputation as the greatest is threatened, however, with the arrival of young hotshot Delmore Shidski (Jan-Michael Vincent), who Sonny nicknames “Ski”.

Ski, it seems, is willing to take risks, performing stunts that have never been attempted before. As for Sonny, both his girlfriend Gwen (Sally Field) and his best buddy Cully (James Best) are pushing him to retire. But when Ski suggests that he and Sonny attempt a long-distance car jump for their new movie, one that will shatter all previous records, Sonny jumps at the opportunity, despite the fact that one more injury might put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life!

Like Smokey and the Bandit before it, Hooper is fun with a capital “F”, an action / comedy that doesn’t skimp on either. Reynolds is as charismatic and lovable as ever playing the cocky Hooper, a guy who knows his best days are behind him but wants to show his new young colleague why he’s still top dog. Many of the stunts Hooper performs throughout the movie are, indeed, exciting. In an early scene, he has to zip line over a city street while holding a dog!

In addition to Reynolds, Hooper boasts a talented supporting cast. Jan-Michael Vincent, Sally Field, and James Best are superb, as are Robert Klein (as egotistical director Roger Deal), Brian Keith (Jocko, a former stuntman and Gwen’s father), John Marley (producer Max Burns), Alfie Wise (as Roger Deal’s diminutive assistant), and Adam West (as himself, the star of the movie in production). Also turning up in a cameo is football great Terry Bradshaw as an off-duty cop who mixes it up with Sonny during a barroom brawl.

As for the final stunt, the car jump across a collapsed bridge, it is phenomenal, not to mention nerve-racking. Sonny was told by his doctors that his back won’t survive another concussion, brining an added tension to the entire sequence.

Needham and Reynolds would go on to make several more movies together, including Smokey and the Bandit II, The Cannonball Run (a personal favorite of mine) and Stroker Ace (which is abysmal), but their first two collaborations as actor and director - Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper - remain their best.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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