VEHICLES: 1978 Pontiac Trans Am, 1977 GMC K1500, 1973 Ford Torino, 1971 Ford Torino wagon, 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1, 1970 Ford Maverick, 1971 Ford LTD, 1968 BMW 2002, 1961 Cadillac ambulance, 1972 Chevrolet El Camino, 1976 Suzuki RM250, 1978 Subaru Brat STARS: Burt Reynolds, Jan-Michael Vincent, Sally Field, Brian Keith, James Best, Adam West, Robert Klein DIRECTOR: Hal Needham ACTION: A film about stuntmen is a great excuse for action – all kinds of awesome stunts are jammed into this flick PLOT: Ageing stuntman Sonny Hooper is at the top of his game but feeling the pinch of both a worn-out body and young talent looking to swipe his crown HOOPER (Burt Reynolds) is a leading Hollywood stuntman struggling with the physical demands of his profession, but looking to make one final wad of cash to fund his retirement before passing the baton to young gun, Ski (Vincent).
The two rivals form an unlikely partnership, combining Hooper’s experience with Ski’s fearlessness to plan a stunt that will cement the pair as legends in their field.
When cut-throat director Roger Deal (Klein) gets wind of the plan he proposes a 325-foot canyon leap using a jet-powered Trans Am – a stunt so dangerous the odds are stacked against the pair even landing the jump, let alone surviving it.
Threaded through the macho action and goofy oneliners is a fairly heavy undertone as Hooper ponders his own mortality and how his actions will affect his fiancée Gwen (Field) and mentor Jocko (Keith).
Burt Reynolds and director Hal Needham were seemingly at the top of their game in the late 70s following the success of their first collaboration, Smokey And The Bandit. Hooper was the second flick of a six-movie Reynolds-Needham partnership that included Smokey I and II, the Cannonball Run franchise and Stroker Ace. Sadly, the latter films flopped, virtually destroying Reynolds’s superstar status, but to be honest the writing was on the wall early on with Hooper.
Look, it’s not a total drag, but there were plenty of simple changes that could have been made to tighten the script and remove some of the painful elements from what should have been an all-time hero flick. The bar fight scene is embarrassing and Reynolds’s stupid giggle will have you searching for the mute button, and you have to wonder whether there was actually a proper script – the actors sound like they’re just freeballing their lines.
But Hooper is a film about stuntmen, and at least they nailed that part. Both Reynolds and Needham started their careers as stuntmen and the action-movie satire of Hooper offered the perfect platform for them to include stunts of every kind – which they did, and they’re awesome.
HOOPER is best viewed as a chance to reminisce about the golden age of Hollywood stunts performed at their raw best. The closing scenes are total mayhem, but somehow they work, while the supporting cast – Brian Keith (Hardcastle & McCormick), James Best (Sheriff Roscoe from The Dukes Of Hazzard) and Adam ‘Batman’ West – are all TV legends to any late baby boomer or Gen-Xer. s