Directed Harley Cokliss
Starring Burt Reynolds, Cliff Robertson, Scott Wilson, Cynthia Gibb, Lauren Hutton, Kenneth McMillan
International hit man may seem like the perfect job. There is travel, mystery, adventure and you get to meet interesting people and kill them. Of course there are downsides, primarily the the severance package tends to be rather extreme. Malone finds this out when he tires of pulling the trigger and tries to retire.
Malone, played straight by an unusually taciturn and restrained Burt Reynolds, is a burned out hit man. After botching his last couple of jobs his heart just isn’t into it anymore. He decides to take a leave of absence even after a coworker, played by Lauren Hutton, reminds him that turning his back on the job might prove detrimental to health. His retirement hits a snag when his transmission gives out on him in, at least what seems to be at first glance, a sleepy little town in the Oregon backwoods. He ends up at a service station run by Paul Barlow, Scott Wilson, and his teenage daughter Jo, Cynthia Gibb. Turns out Paul doesn’t stock the parts needed to fix Malone’s Mustang and he ends up stuck in town for several days. Malone takes the delay in stride, after all one place is as good as another when you don’t really have a destination. Malone gets pulled into the town troubles when he puts a local lowlife in the hospital after said lowlife picks a fight with him as he’s taking a walk with Jo. Turns out the lowlife is on the payroll of Congressman Delaney, played in a scene chewing performance by Cliff Robertson.
Delaney is buying up all the land in the valley for some reason that he’s not sharing with the townsfolk and he’s using the town lowlifes to put pressure on the holdouts. Lowlifes aren’t the only people in town that Delaney has bought out, the Sheriff is also on his payroll. Delaney’s intimidation tactics aren’t having the desired effect and he suspects there might be more to Malone’s presence than simple transmission problems. One of Delaney’s lieutenants goads the brother of the lowlife Malone put in the hospital to go after Malone. The plan doesn’t quite go as planned when Malone ends up killing this brother. It’s a clear case of self defense but it gives the Sheriff an excuse to hold Malone for questioning. Delaney takes advantage of the situation to personally interview Malone. Delaney sizes up Malone and quickly sees that he’s more than just a normal bloke passing through town. As a collector of men with particular skills Delaney tries unsuccessfully to recruit Malone into his organization. Turns out Delaney is trying to turn the valley into some kind of ultra right wing freedom zone or compound of some sort. Since Delaney is a “your either with me or your against me” sort of guy Malone has to go and he gives the order for specialists to be brought in to take care of Malone. That’s not Malone’s only problem. As a matter of routine the Sheriff ran a information request on Malone’s driver’s license after the shooting. Malone’s former employer intercepted the request and now knows where to find him so they also put a plan into motion to take care of Malone.
Malone is an odd little film. It’s got some real star power, but plays like a well put together B movie. It feels like a decent Network TV movie of the week except for a few expletives sprinkled here and there. The story is an above average tight thriller but it’s riddled with cliche’s like silenced revolvers and cars that explode after being shot a couple of times. Reynolds is actually acting this time around but he’s carrying a lot of baggage. There are a couple of scenes when you expect him to turn to the camera, wink and let go with his trademark “ha haa.” Scott Wilson turns in a great performance and Cliff Robertson appears to be having a blast playing the oily Delaney. Cokliss’s direction is professional without calling attention to itself and he really leverages the beautiful British Columbia locations. Malone is a competent by the numbers thriller that unfortunately never manages to rise above the material with the exception of the final confrontation between Malone and Delaney which has a great neo noir vibe to it.
The movie starts with the message “This film has been manufactured from the best source materials available.” Not a statement that inspires confidence. It is presented in a 16×9 aspect ratio and it looks decent. There is a fair amount of grain, the blacks tend to soak up a lot of detail and the image is sometimes a little soft. On the good side I never noticed any aliasing, moire, blooming or any other digital artifacts.
The audio is nothing special. There are no subtitles or other language tracks. The mix is professional if not inspiring.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging is basic, even generic, there are no extras of any type. The only option on the menu is play. There aren’t even real chapters, the film is just split up into ten minute chunks.
Overall (not an average) 5/10
Malone is a mostly forgettable film. It’s not bad it’s just not memorable. The few moments it has that are interesting are just not enough to propel it out of the sea of mediocrity that it’s mired in.
The Movie: 5/10
The Video: 7/10
The Audio: 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features: 1/10
Overall (not an average): 5/10