Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Stream-And-Run: The Longest Yard (1974)

    Psst: it's much better than the remake. Like you needed me to tell you that...

    There used to be a time when filmmakers weren't pidgeon-holed as specializing in "horror" or  "comedy" or any other disparate types, but instead weaved in and out through the myriad genres of film and adapted like chameleons running across a field of M&M's. Robert Aldrich was one such filmmaker, able to make westerns and noir and regular, old kitchen-sink drama with an equally deft touch. More than anything, Aldrich's films stood out due to the director's nihilistic attitude and wonderfully anarchic sense of humor... none of which is on better display than they are here with this Burt Reynolds vehicle. Aldrich was also one of the few filmmakers of classic Hollywood to survive the transition from the factory-line procession of studio pictures to the far more naturalistic, indie-minded films of the late sixties and seventies; possibly due to his own morally-ambiguous style meshing far better with the sensibility of seventies film than the system under which he came up - almost as if he was finally given free reign to make the movies he always wanted to make. The Longest Yard is one such movie, on the surface an enjoyable romp with Burt Reynolds and company, but look closer and you'll see the film has some serious teeth underneath all the charm and swagger. Reynolds' character Pete "Wrecking" Crewe has to put together a team of convicts to take on their own guards in a "friendly" game of football, and the filmmakers hold nothing back in a film that's packed with all sorts of loaded, political imagery - especially the final scene, which is about as anarchic as Aldrich could get. Whether looking for fiercely political anti-authoritian statements or a film where old Burt does what he does best (namely, be charming as a motherfucker), The Longest Yard makes for a grand old time at the movies.

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