When I was a kid, I had no illusions. I was probably never going to grow up to be Burt Reynolds. I was probably going to grow up to be Dom DeLuise. But in my heart of hearts, I was kind of hoping that I’d grow up to be Jerry Reed, who was always the dependable, no nonsense friend.
This was the first — and only — movie that Jerry Reed would direct. That alone marks it for inclusion in this week of redneck cinema.
It’s easy to only think of Jerry Reed as an actor. But there’s so much more. Despite spending seven years of his childhood in orphanges and foster homes after his parents divorce, Reed started writing and selling songs while still in his teens. His unqiue fingerpicking technique is still imitating by all manner of guitarists. And he wrote — and played session guitar — for plenty of Elvis Presley’s late 60s and early 70s releases.
Reed also enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with Chet Atkins — they composed the theme for The Benny Hill Show, “Yakety Sax” together — as well as crossing over into the mainstream with hits like “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” Soon, the country star was appearing on The New Scooby-Doo Movies and getting into movies with his buddy Burt Reynolds.
Starting with 1974’s W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, Reynolds and Reed would make a fine comedy team, also appearing in movies like Gator, HIgh-Ballin’, Hot Stuff and all three of the Smokey and the Bandit films.
Reed’s role in this film comes just one year after opening for Dexys Midnight Runners on tour, a tandem which quite frankly sets off fireworks inside my scattered mind. Reed also plays Joe Hawkins, a country singer who has been on the road for decades and feeling it. He’s basically held together with a cocktail of pills and booze.
His brother Tom (Bo Hopins, Midnight Express, The Wild Bunch) is pretty much estranged from our hero, at odds with the man who really runs Joe’s life, his manager Leon Redden. After Tom and his wife Sandy help Joe dry out, they discover that he’s been taken for $8 million dollars and help him get his revenge. Arte Johnson also shows up.
This is a wildly inconsistent film, one that can be a comedy one moment, a tragic family drama the next and then a comedy just as quickly. Yet it moved quickly and I was with it the whole way. It’s very much a redneck movie in that people do horrible things that should get them arrested at the very least and they’re the heroes.
Also — there’s no way to watch Eastbound and Down and not see a reflection of the way Kenny Powers and his brother Dustin interact together. In fact, it almost feels line for line from this film.
You can watch this on Amazon Prime.