Blu-ray Review: Gator

GatorBluSTUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Burt Reynolds | CAST: Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Jack Weston, Lauren Hutton, Burton Gilliam, Dub Taylor, Alice Ghostley
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 11/11/2014 | PRICE: DVD $19.95, Blu-ray $29.95
BONUSES: featurette, trailer
SPECS: PG | 115 min. | Action crime drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video  | Overall

 

In 1976’s Gator, Burt Reynolds (Deliverance) returns as Gator McCluskey, the good ol’ Southern boy moonshiner from the 1973 crime actioner White Lightning who, in that film, was released from jail by the Feds so that he could catch some real bad guys in the form of a corrupt lawmen and politicians. Gator is pressured by the government to do more of the same in his eponymous sequel—but it’s not as much fun this time around.

Marking Reynolds’ feature film directorial debut, Gator isn’t as tight and tough as White Lightning, with Reynolds opting for a lighter, almost lazier approach to the story of one man’s fight against Southern-fried crime and corruption.

Burt Reynolds is Gator

Burt Reynolds is Gator

Even the action sequences are scaled back in this outing, with the biggest set piece—a speedboat chase through Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp—taking place in the opening half-hour. The film’s middle section is surprisingly lethargic, with familiar-faced veterans Jack Weston and Alice Ghostley generating some laughs, a spunky, bra-less Lauren Hutton and a bunch of scantily clad prostitutes adding some cheesecake, and Reynolds giving himself far too many lingering close-ups.

It should also be noted that unlawfulness that drives the story involves forced prostitution by drugged-up teenagers as overseen by a scenery-chewing Jerry Reed, which is a far cry from White Lightning’s running of moonshine across state lines. Though Reynolds’ Gator sets out to clean up the county, it all left a bad taste in my mouth—probably worse than the moonshine would have.

The disc’s sole special feature (not including a trailer) is Back to the Bayou: Part 2, a 10-minute piece featuring a new filmed testimonial from Reynolds. (Part 1 is on the White Lightning discs.) He fondly talks about his co-stars (Weston was charming and the “crazy” Hutton regularly flashed the crew), his love of filming in Georgia (he made some dozen films there) and his ill-fated career as a director. Though Gator was indeed a box office hit, Reynolds admits that he didn’t pursue the directing career he claims to have wanted, choosing instead to follow the more lucrative road as a leading man. That said, Reynolds went on to direct a handful of features (including Sharky’s Machine and The End) and television movies, as well as 35 episodes of his Nineties TV series Evening Shade, so he shouldn’t be that disappointed.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.