by Jon Partridge
The 70s probably marked the golden age as Burt Reynold‘s career goes. Films such as Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, and Hooper cemented his talents and fame in front of the camera. This time also marked his work behind it with his second directorial effort The End, now available on Blu-ray for the first time from Olive Films.
Reynolds stars as Wendell “Sonny” Lawson, a man who has just been told he has only six months to live thanks to a blood disorder. After reaching out to friends, his ex-wife, his girlfriend, daughter, and parents, he finds little solace and decides to go out on his own terms and attempts a drug overdose. When he comes to he’s been committed to a mental care facility. Here he bonds with another inmate, Marlon (Dom Deluise), a schizophrenic being held for murder. Being protected from harming himself, Sonny soon sees Marlon as the solution to his problem.
The End is two movies mashed up into one, the first a black comedy, the second a buddy comedy centered around Sonny’s relationship with fellow inmate Marlon. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses which typically stem from one source, Reynolds himself. The man is a hell of a screen presence, the quips the charm, its impossible to dislike him and he certainly brings those qualities to the table. The budding ‘friendship’ with Marlon bringing one of the best foils he’s ever had in the film business in DeLuise (in one of his best roles) into the picture. Their time trying to work out a way to commit suicide being some of the most entertaining parts of the film. He also shows some more deft work, a tearful exchange with his young daughter (Kristy McNichol) being particularly moving.
The flip side of the coin is that there is an inconsistency to his performance that detracts from the film at times. He fails to craft any real sympathy, something essential for the character. He seems a little unsure of how to handle the material, which is to be expected with such dark subject matter delivered in a farcical way. In these more obvious moments you see Reynolds cranking up the theatrics. It’s likely a consequence of self-direction, perhaps a stronger guiding hand at the helm could have made the film more successful/cohesive.
Compounding these issues is a screenplay from Jerry Belson who, seemingly unable to give supporting characters much depth, imbues them with numerous personality tics and quirky flaws. But despite this, the cast is a solid one with some fun characters brought to life by Robby Benson, Carl Reiner, David Steinberg and Sally Field, who portrays a slobby cat lady yet is somehow still one of the most wonderful things ever.
The picture quality of the transfer is solid. No issues, detail is good but there are some scenes, notably exterior shots where the film seems a little washed out or bright. But overall a good presentation. The only special feature included is a trailer, disappointing as a commentary from Reynolds would have been a fascinating addition.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The End is a farcical black comedy that has its flaws but has much to appreciate from a great ensemble cast. The film hits its stride with the always wonderful pairing of Reynolds and DeLuise. A morbid buddy comedy that often falters but always entertains.
The End is available on Blu-ray from Olive Films from 27th October.