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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Deliverance

Starring: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds
Director: John Boorman
Rated: R
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: July 1972
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, Bill McKinney, Herbert Cowboy Coward, James Dickey

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

Lately, I've been reviewing an assortment of old movies dating back to 1937, and have sparked quite a backlash of comments from fans of old movies I've ripped up (FORBIDDEN PLANET OF THE APES in particular). A few people have told me I don't like these movies because I'm watching them now, as opposed to forty years ago, when they didn't seem so stilted and cheesy. They say now that I've seen hundreds of newer films that have drastically improved on special effects and turned certain plot lines into cliches, I can't watch the old ones without thinking of what's come later to top it. And of course they're right.

One person's e-mail comment summed it up best -- I have a 90's bias. I naturally prefer the look of a movie from my lifetime (1978 on) as opposed to the ridiculous costumes of the 70's, the out-there decor of the 60's, the terrible sci-fi effects of the 50's (FORBIDDEN PIE-PLATE PLANET fans take note) and so on, even if there is something undeniably dream-like and artistic about black-and-white films that Technicolor can't achieve. There are movies from those decades I love, but I'm sure they don't seem as good in 1996 as they did when they were originally released. And I didn't see them when they were originally released because I hadn't even been conceived then.

Unfortunately, I didn't see all these movies in chronological order, which means when you go from the special effects of JURASSIC PARK or TWISTER to something like FORBIDDEN PLANET, you're not impressed. Even the "four-star" movies like DELIVERANCE don't seem incredibly great to me. Here's a movie that takes almost forty-five minutes to get to one exciting scene and then spends the rest of the movie coming down from that. I've seen enough of the newer, short-attention-span action and thriller movies that when a movie coasts on the strength of one sequence, it doesn't earn a four-star rating in my book.

DELIVERANCE is still a highly-watchable film, if just to see an underwear-clad Ned Beatty being violated by two backwoods rednecks. Burt Reynolds, in one of his very few worthy cinematic appearances (before he'd be relegated to "Evening Shade" reruns on The Family Channel and those SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT sequels), plays a macho man who gets a few of his buddies (Jon Voight, Beatty and Ronny Cox) together for a weekend canoe trip down a river wild.

But this is no Meryl Streep-reclaiming-her-lost-youth flick; the river set-up is just an excuse to get them into an unpopulated area of the Deep South. We already know from the five-minute "Dueling Banjoes" scene at the beginning that the people 'round these parts are just plain odd and, when Voight and Beatty get out of their canoe to wander through the woods for a while and the "Dueling Banjoes" song starts up again on the soundtrack for the eighth time, we know something's about to happen.

That's when the one nail-biting scene in the entire movie comes up and Voight and Beatty are under the mercy of the two rednecks, in a scene that undoubtedly inspired the creation of Quentin Tarantino's Maynard and Zed characters in PULP FICTION. (There I go again, making comparisons between old and new movies.) After that, it's an hour of anti-climax as Voight and Beatty must transport a wounded Reynolds down the river and dodge an angry redneck.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good movie; I was just expecting more from it than just the one scene. That's the only time it becomes a four-star movie. The rest of the time it hovers somewhere between two-and-a-half and three-star status. Reynolds contributes an interesting performance toward the beginning, as the man obsessed with violence and nature. That's when you get to thinking maybe the rest of the movie will have the other three trying to escape a psycho Reynolds and his even nuttier hairpiece, but after the big rape scene and Reynolds' getting shot, he drops out of the movie.

DELIVERANCE becomes Voight's movie for the last third, and he plays a notably less macho character than usual. On paper, you'd think Voight would be cast in the Reynolds role and vice versa, but by the end you realize his range extends far beyond the shoot-em-up action hero. It's good stuff... for the 70's.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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