Anyone who grew up in the ’80s probably remembers seeing a certain videocassette in the stores at one point or another, depicting a very angry, injured Burt Reynolds with a furious appearance upon his mustached kisser and brandishing a shotgun in mid-blast. Why, if you were to glance at a Polaroid I snapped of my room from the days of my (in all likelihood) misspent youth, you would notice a promotional display for the movie hanging from the ceiling. And yet, just like several other cinematic offerings starring Loni Anderson’s former celebrity hubby from that particular period in time, I never actually took the time out to watch Malone.
After all, it was just a movie that starred Burt Reynolds — an actor whose motion picture endeavors at that particular point in time were akin to Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, and Arnold Schwarzenegger: that of the typecast ’80s action hero. Of course, once you fast-forward twenty to thirty years, the bane of even the most stereotypical gun-wielding actor’s career can become something of a relic for B-Movie aficionados, bored couch potatoes, and/or those damn hipsters. And, while Burt Reynolds’ profession of performing had not reached the nadir it was destined to sink to (Cop and a Half, anyone?) when Malone was made in 1987, it stands to reason that this is certainly not his best offering.
That said, though, it’s definitely enjoyable. We begin with Burt — who plays a CIA assassin bearing the titular surname (among others) — refusing to rub out a target that looks like he could be Wes Craven’s clone. From there, Malone quits and wanders all the way up to rural Oregon (played here by the wilderness of Canada), where his vehicle breaks down. Pushing his car down the road, Malone soon makes the acquaintance of and befriends a kindly Vietnam vet gas station owner/auto mechanic (Scott Wilson) and his young-but-not-that-young daughter (Cynthia Gibb, who has more than a passing resemblance to Emma Watson).
As it turns out, Malone’s timing couldn’t have been better. It seems a rich, controlling, right-wing survivalist nutjob (look, you can just insert your own damn political joke here, OK?) who has bought up most of the surrounding area (including the authorities), and whose ultimate plan is to reboot the country by weeding out the undesirable, “unpatriotic” folk that are presently soiling it. In fact, Charles Delaney (Cliff Robertson) is so obsessed with accomplishing his plan, that he even has the film’s one and only person of color eliminated just to prove his point. He’s also wiping out the locals who don’t sell him their land — and there’s a fuelin’ father/daughter duo on his list of people who aren’t cooperating.
And so, the ex-CIA killer who is tired of all the violence is about to substantiate that saying: “We all die Malone and afraid.” Or something like that. Lauren Hutton co-stars as one of Burt’s CIA gal pals, Kenneth McMillan plays the community’s dim-witted and abusive sheriff, and the great Tracey Walter turns in a memorable performance as the first nimrod in the movie to be on the receiving end of Malone’s Magnum.
Though made by Orion Pictures, Malone has a certain Cannon Group feeling to it throughout its 92-minute runtime, from the generic music score (complete with synth drums!) to the grainy film stock, and right down to the wooden acting and (low) budget-depleting explosion at the end. Based on the 1980 novel Shotgun by William Wingate, this big-screen adaptation (which is very reminiscent of your average B-Western) seems like it had suffered from a number of script pages being torn out prior to filming, with the ending being completely made up solely to conform to meet the action movie standards of the time (if anyone has read the original book, please feel free to chime in here).
Long unavailable on home video — save for an SP and EP VHS release from the late ’80s, which tended to fetch a few dollars on eBay — Malone makes his digital debut as part of MGM’s Limited Edition Collection. The movie is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio and in stereo sound. Like many Manufactured-on-Demand titles, this one is a barebones release. One might even say of its lack of special features that it “rides Malone” (oh, the pain).
As I said before, this average ’80s B-Actioner definitely enjoyable — though you may have to apply just the right amount of spirits, first.