“Sometimes you have to lose yourself ‘fore you can find anything.”
I wasn’t sure what to say about this one for a while. I went into this viewing without the faintest clue what this movie was about, but I knew was a major success back in the 70s so I jumped in optimistic. Boy, was I surprised.
My immediate reaction is that this movie is cool. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly important or intelligent, but it’s not the kind of movie that’s trying to be those things. For those unfamiliar, four friends who live big city lives decide to go into the woods for a kayak trip. What follows is a hilarious, horrifying thrill ride led by fantastic performances by Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, and Ronny Cox.
The opening scene leads into a guitar-banjo battle which I later found through my research is an iconic scene in modern cinema. It sets the tone for the film immediately, establishing this unique conflict between the four city men and their backwoods enemies. It’s one of those scenes that a bad director would have scrapped for time, but God is it fascinating. The indifference on this kid’s face as he schools Ronny Cox on the banjo gives a hint that these guys are just messed up, and this can’t all turn out well.
I also learned that the film’s super low budget made it so the actors didn’t even have insurance, and all stunts were performed by the actors themselves. Any viewing of the film will demonstrate that these guys are bold. The film is full of wacky woodland stunts and horrifying close calls that are legitimately caught on film. These guys went to great lengths to make this film, and it pays off in spades with some of these shots. The low budget almost contributes to the gritty, woodland atmosphere, like the forest is indifferent to these characters but also the film crew itself.
The dialogue is snappy and clever. The script moves along beautifully with just the right balance of laughs and thrills, and the film is a fun time from beginning to end. I would assume the rape scene caused controversy on release, but I think it’s great. There are no rules in this movie, and it’s about the fear that develops in these guys. I wouldn’t tone down a thing in this movie. The ending left me a bit unsatisfied, as if some great last finale would arise that never really came, making the last 5 minutes drag out some weak exposition.
However, this movie really did take me by surprise. It’s not a typical thriller, and it rises above similar movies because it allows itself to have fun. It sticks to the story and lets the actors breathe with it all. The film feels like a fun project with low expectations and no boundaries, and this results in an overall fun film.
Films Left to Watch: 998