It’s Burt Reynolds vs. Cliff Robertson. Cliff has got the money but Burt’s got the mustache and the toupee.
Robertson plays Charles Delaney, a wealthy businessman who, with the help of a mercenary army, has bought nearly all the land in a small Oregon town. Only the owner of a local gas station, Paul Barlow (Scott Wilson), has refused to sell. Delaney and his men think that they can intimidate Paul into selling but what they do not realize is that Paul has a houseguest. Richard Malone (Burt Reynolds) was driving through town when his car broke down. While waiting for it to get fixed, he has been staying with Paul and his teenage daughter, Jo (Cynthia Gibb). What no one knows is that Malone used to be an assassin for the CIA.
If ever there was a film that demanded the talents of Charles Bronson, it is Malone. The tough and ruthless title character would have been a perfect Bronson role, especially if Malone had been made twenty years earlier. Instead, the role went to Burt Reynolds, who was on the downside of his career as an action hero. Sometimes, Burt tries to play the role as serious and emotionally guarded. Then, in other scenes, Burt will suddenly smile and wink at the camera as he briefly turns back into the Bandit. This is not one of Burt’s better performances. He gets good support from the entire cast, including Lauren Hutton as his CIA handler, but, in most of his scenes, Burt comes across as being tired and his toupee makes him look like The Brady Bunch‘s Robert Reed. Burt was 51 when he made Malone and he looked like he was at least ten years older, making the scenes where Jo comes onto him even more improbable.
Where Malone succeeds is in the action scenes. Along with Burt’s final assault on Delaney’s compound, there is also a classic showdown in a barbershop. Malone had a budget of ten million dollars. How many blood squibs did that buy? Pay close attention to the scene where two hitmen attempt to surprise Malone in his room and find out.
Malone is may not feature Burt at his best but it is still a damn sight better than some of the other films that awaited Burt once his starpower started to diminish. Mad Dog Time, anyone?