- Movie Rating -

Every Which Way But Loose (1979)

| December 20, 1978

My head was spinning when the final credits rolled on Every Which Way But Loose and, I can confidently tell you that it was not from all the laughter.  This movie is such an unholy mess of weird tone shifts, misaligned subplots and basic narrative problems that by the end, I was dismayed to find that the story wasn’t really over.  Clint Eastwood’s characters not only loses the big fight but also loses the girl, and the movie plays both like they are some kind of victory.  

And yet, and yet, I was entertained by it.  As messy and half-strung as this movie it, I have to admit that it is one of the best bad movies I’ve ever seen.  Obviously this movie is a by-product of the success of Burt Reynolds’ Smokey and the Bandit but between the two I’ll say that this is the better movie (which isn’t saying much) and might come down to the fact that nobody in this film is referred to as a “pile of monkey nuts.”  I consider that progress.

In a vast break from his usual action pictures, Eastwood plays good ol’ boy Philo Beddo, a truck driver by trade who also happens to be an experienced bare-knuckle pit fighter on the side.  We believe it too.  When he takes off his shirt, Philo looks like he’s about six-months ready for the Mr. Universe competition.  At home, he lives with this best buddy, a loyal Orangutan named Clyde as well as his loud-mouth mother (Ruth Gordon) who owns a god-killer shotgun (there might be a debate over which is louder).  Also, there’s Orville who is his . . . brother?  cousin?  Both?  Anyway, Orville is Philo’s buddy who is in charge of sniffing out high-stakes fights to get some cash.

The selling point of the movie, obviously Clyde the Ape, who is adorable, does funny things and also subsists on  a diet of beer and Oreos that would, in reality, probably kill a real orangutan in 20 minutes.  But we let the fantasy go because, somehow, Eastwood and the ape have a kind of oddly effective chemistry.  Although, I must give credit to Clint for agreeing to look ridiculous while roaming the streets with an ape.  I know I couldn’t do it.

The ape works much better than the story, which takes so many turns and has so many unnecessary characters that the movie doesn’t know where to go next.  Eastwood has a relationship in this movie with a scheming country singer Lynn (Sondra Locke) that is so sporadic and so unfocused that you’re not really sure how it ends.

The central joke is that when Sondra Locke disappears from Eastwood’s life, he goes looking for her, and manages to accrue a gaggle of enemies along the way.  One is a cop that he offends in a bar, and the other is a silly neo-Nazi biker gang that keep losing their motorcycles.

None of that stuff is really funny because it hasn’t been written with any purpose.  Jokes pop up with no purpose and aren’t really paid off.  Characters comes in just to be beaten silly by Eastwood and, again, the movie ends without really ending.  It just sort of grinds to a halt.

But again, there are things about this movie that I like.  I like it silly energy (I keep using that word).  I like the fights, which are brutal in that stuntman sort of way – including punches that sound like someone hitting a wet sack on a car hood.  And, again, I liked the ape.  Eastwood found a great co-star this time,  I can’t explain why.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized