White Lightning/ Gator 1973/76


Burt Reynolds is best remembered for two car-chase franchises, Smokey and The Bandit and The Cannonball Run; his best was the two films he made as hard-lining Gator McCluskey. In White Lightning, originally to be directed by Steven Spielberg, Gator unwillingly joins forces with federal agents investigating a moonshine ring in the Deep South, with Ned Beatty ideal as the lawman. Joseph Sargent’s film is a solid thriller, building up to an impressive car chase and a very neat ending that show’s Gator’s ingenious escape and almost cost the life of the stunt-driver (Hal Needham). The same character returned in 1976’s Gator, directed by Reynolds, and putting him up against sleazy politicians, with Lauren Hutton as a glamorous TV reporter who falls for Gator’s charms. Live and Let Die-style speedboat chases are added to the mix, and both films offer up plenty of entertainment without too much stunt-man bonhomie that weakened some of Reynolds’ later work.



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