Wednesday, February 16, 2011

J.W. Coop

Netflix sez...

1972 PG-13 112 minutes
J.W. Coop (Cliff Robertson, who also directed the film) has just been released from jail after a 10-year sentence for writing a bounced check and decking a sheriff. Coop knows what he's got to do: "Get back on the horse" and jump-start his rodeo career as a former top rider. The odds are against him, but with the help of his dishy sidekick, Bean (Christina Ferrare), he just might have a shot at the championship.

The 73rd Virgin sez...
A little bit Easy Rider, a little bit Nashville, a little bit Rocky, and way ahead of its time. There are bits of great art and good entertainment scattered throughout a rather somber story. It seems like Robertson, as the director, had a million ideas pent-up inside and dumped them all into one movie, and most of them work amazingly well. The point of view camera shots on the back of a bull or bronco are unique, far as I know.

It begins as a nicely minimalist look at an aging ex-con rider trying to return to the California rodeo circuit. There are several obvious scenes where hitchhiker Robertson listens to angry drivers tell him what's wrong with America while he looks on like Peter Fonda, minus the pot and sunglasses. Five minutes are set aside for racial equality with a very convincing fight in a dirty bathroom.

Like so many 70s movies, there is an air of dissolution and decay that perfectly matches how the world looked back then. But then it changes to a kind of Rocky-style romance, and then comes to an abrupt end. How they filmed the last scene and what the stunt man or real rider must have gone through is beyond my comprehension.

Some of the real riders who have supporting roles are very good. Christina Ferrare has a funny kind of drawl and is way better than most of the nameless hippie-chick actresses of her time, and Robertson's got the Texas walk and accent down about right. And Big Marge is a hoot. Recommended to any art-house movie fan, but pretty entertaining in general. Glad to see that it's back in circulation. 4 out of 5 stars

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