Smokey and the Bandit is an American film which came out in 1977. This was Hal Needham’s directorial debut with a film that he wrote himself, at this point in time he was one of the highest paid stuntman and stunt coordinators. This film is about cars, trucks, CB radios, sticking it to authoritarian figures, romance and just some good old boys doing what they do best.
What is this film about?
Once upon a time there was a trucking legend called Bo Darville, aka The Bandit. He is soon confronted by a father and son tycoon team, big and little Enos who have a challenge for him and $80,000 if he does it. They are having a party and they need some beer, about 400 cases of Coors should do it and they need him to go get it. To do this he will have to get the beer from Texarkana, Texas and bring it back to Atlanta, Georgia in 28 hours and that’s not even the main problem. The main problem is that it is illegal to transport beer east of Texas. With his partner Cledus, The Snowman; in the truck and Bandit in a Trans Am (car) being the run blocker, distracting the cops or Smokey’s they set off and get those 18 wheels a rolling.
My views on it
Back in the 60’s and 70’s a new genre started to form as it started to branch away from its parent genre ‘action’ and this new genre was the car film. Great action films started to come out around this time that started to use more popular cars and throw in a few good chase scenes as well. In most of these films the car itself became just as big and famous as the actors using it. For example we have the Ford Mustang in Bullitt (1968), the Dodge Challenger in Vanishing Point (1971) and who could forget Mini Coopers in The Italian Job (1969). So it seemed that the car film was only going to be a subgenre to action but not for long, because then came Smokey and The Bandit. Smokey and The Bandit was one of the first major car films to come out that wasn’t an action movie, it was a comedy, and due to this it severed the link the car film had to action and for once made it stand on its own two feet. This is one of the reasons this film is great as it was one of the pioneers to fully cement this genre.
Due to this film being a comedy and not an action it brought a new fresh look at the classic ‘chase scene’ itself. Because it wasn’t an action film the chase scenes (which there is plenty of) did lose some of their thrill. They were less dramatic and less intense then their predecessors but for what it lost it gained a lot more. What it gained was the element of fun and this was great. It made me smile every time Bandit distracted the cops, tried to hide or when he did a jump. If this film was an action film, due to the sheer amount of driving in it, it would have got monotonous; it would have been one long action scene that would just get dull. As it’s a comedy you get the thrill of the chase, the element of comedy that came with it, the witty dialogue between the characters, mainly Bandit and Snowman and just enough room to throw in some romance as well.
Another one of the great things about this film is this introduction into the world of CB radio. The community in this film is based around CB radio as Bandit and Snowman receive help from anyone who can get them on the radio waves. This sense of community in this film is very interesting and because of this and the slang they use in it, it gives you a really good feel for the time, place and plot in which this film is set.
All in all I like this film but it does have its flaws. The plot is thin; the aspect of the challenge that is set at the beginning of the film (doing it in 28 hours) is lost very quickly and if you don’t like cars then don’t even bother as this film is about 90% driving. But for me this film is a humble slice of Americana, full of simple pleasures and Burt Reynolds. So what more could you want from just a car film.
Buford T. Justice: [to his son] There's no way, *no* way that you came from *my* loins. Soon as I get home, first thing I'm gonna do is punch yo mamma in da mouth!