The piece below was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.
I love Burt Reynolds almost as much as Kino Lorber does
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A mysterious hero happens upon a small town where a local villain is wreaking havoc. Despite his tough exterior and detached stoicism, eventually our mysterious hero will side with the everyman and use his considerable set of skills to take down the villain and wander into the sunset.
It’s honestly perhaps my favorite trope, and a template I will likely watch a thousand more iterations of before I leave this earth. So while Malone gets no marks for originality, it is playing in one of my favorite sandboxes, so I’m inclined to enjoy it very much. And I do.
Reynolds here is noticeably a little older and bedecked with perhaps a more discernible hairpiece than anyone involved might want to admit. But the guy still exudes badassery and star power as he storms through this picture. Malone is a former CIA assassin who loses his desire to kill for The Man and simply walks away. He knows they’ll come for him, but he doesn’t care. Cruising across the country with nothing but a Magnum and a muscle car, he breaks down in a small town that’s being bullied by none other than Uncle Ben himself, Cliff Robertson, as the loathsome white nationalist Delaney. Delaney has been buying out the town and bullying the residents in order to create a clandestine retreat oasis for powerful young recruits that are vowing to take back the country for white people.
Look, I tend to love a Burt Reynolds action film by default, but the chillingly apt plotline of a laconic Reynolds kicking the asses of white supremecists was too delicious to pass up, and I was not disappointed. Malone bonds with fellow Vietnam vet Paul Barlow (an excellent Scott Wilson) and his daughter Jo (Cynthia Gibb). He’s invited into their home as he waits on parts to fix his badass muscle car and is quickly and reluctantly pulled into the Delaney problem. Soon Delaney’s men and the CIA assassins sent to punch Malone’s ticket (including Lauren Hutton) will smash together into an explosive finale that may include one of the earliest “hero walks away from a massive explosion completely unphased and without looking back” shots in cinema history.
A studio programmer showcasing an aging star, Malone isn’t something that stands head and shoulders above your average late 1980s action picture. It’s perhaps more of a final holdover from the 1970s than what the next generation of action stars were doing by the late 80s. But Burt still had it and director Harley Cokliss acquits himself well with a modernized western that lets you root for the underdog, cheer for the destruction of hateful (and powerful) racists, and watch the hero wander into the sunset, certain to help the residents of the town in the next valley over. Elevated by a fantastic cast and a confident Burt Reynolds, you could do a lot worse than to enlist Malone to root out your Nazi problem.
Exactly what I’m looking for in a release like this, you get a great looking picture for a 92 minute studio action picture from Orion, and a wonderfully informative commentary featuring a dialog between Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. Commentaries like these are great because you get a couple of extremely well researched nerds into a room together and they feed off of one another’s’ energy to crank out an enormous amount of knowledge in the film’s brief runtime. You get all sorts of insights into Reynolds’ career at that time, his professional relationship with Lauren Hutton, and backstory on just about every major actor in the film. I’m happy to own this disc and pleased they offered a commentary track for such an enjoyable, if familiar, studio programmer.
Malone is available on now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics