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Big Enos (Pat McCormick) and his little son (Paul Williams) need some alcoholic bevrages for their party but trucking it across state lines is against the law, so you need someone who can get it quick without the cops stopping them. Enter The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) who with his buddy big rig driver 'The Snowman'(Jerry Reed) who are up for the challenge, especially for the money involved. With the alcohol loaded in the rig and The Bandit riding ahead in his black Pontiac Trans-Am distracting the highway cops, the rogue pair are on for the money but when they come across a runaway bride (Sally Fields), who has the local Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleeson) and his son after her already, this run just got a whole lot trickier.

 Smokey and the Bandit
I must have watched Smokey and the Bandit a thousand times. Between the VHS copy I had as a kid and the numerous times I’ve been drawn in to it on the many, many TV broadcasts the film still has, Smokey and the Bandit has to be up there as one as my most watched films. Weirdly I’ve never owned it on a digital format, it’s not really a film that’s common place in the UK market (well at least not a great copy) and there were always various editions from the US that came out but I never committed to the version I wanted, or it’s probably just that it’s on TV so much my desire for a rewatch is quenched regularly after a few flicks through the channels and I stumble upon it... yet again.
 
So sitting down for this rewatch was sort of a unique thing for me. A planned, rewatch, not a stumble upon, not a come in half way through, a genuine start to finish watch of Smokey and the Bandit and with my wife too, who had only ever seen bits and pieces. Damn this film is a blast. It’s so casual and cool and just outright fun. It’s very much of its time (late 70s) with its attitudes towards women and the bending of the law but there’s still a lot of fun to be had with that. Burt Reynolds and Sally Fields are adorable to watch together, there’s genuine chemistry out of very little but two playful characters in a car together and even though the film is basically go get the booze and then bring the booze back, every step of that comes with its own set of entertainment.

 Smokey and the Bandit
Whether it's cars flying through the air, cop cars crashing or Sheriff Justice getting progressively more annoyed (in his ever decreasing car) with The Bandit, this film just keeps on driving forward until the bitter end (and even then it drives off to another adventure).  At the core of all this though and this is a very ‘boy’ comment to say but I could watch that Trans-Am skidding around all day. This period of film (and TV with the likes of The Dukes of Hazaard) is precisely where my love of car chases and mad car stunts stems from. You could argue that CGI has upped the game of car chases and general car mayhem but none of that is as good as seeing a real car, create a real cloud of dirt as it skids around a bend to avoid a cop car. I don’t care that these cars could not lift off in the jumps they do or that in real life people get hurt when a car tumbles down a hill or slams into the back of a moving truck, this sort of stuff still puts a grin on my face and seeing Smokey and the Bandit’s lead car do its stuff has always been a thrill to me, no mater how many rewatches I have.

 Smokey and the Bandit

Video


The presentation here runs a little soft at times and transitions look pretty gnarly too but given that I've probably watched Smokey on ITV2 in less than standard definition this Blu-ray presenation in 1080p still sort of a revlation just to see the film look this much better.

Grain is minimal and and colours run pretty hot, especially The Bandit's bright red shirt which has never lept off of the screen quite so much. Blue skies are bright and the more often than not overcast ones bleak and grey (which also takes the shine off the image too).

Skin tones fare pretty well and anything with a decent light source sells the HD upgrade better than the drabber ones. Light twinkles in Sally Field's eyes and some of the paint jobs on the cars here really look flash in the right conditions.

Black levels are okay but suffer a bit in the handful of darker scenes mainly as that natural light gets blocked but all in all this is a pretty good looking HD presenation. It gives the film a fresher look to it, even if its not a full style restoration out to truly impress.

 Smokey and the Bandit

Audio


The dialogue is a little muffled from time to time but generally speaking the 5.1 mix here is pretty effective. Elements have clearly been added but it's usually the odd thing in the rears, like a boosted reving engine or the rig rolling by. Most of the time everything sits right up front giving the film a clean but small sound to it. There's the odd atmospheric sound but these are fleeting and largely incidental, Smokey remains a fairly small audio assualt with most of the heavy lifting being handled by the Trans-Am engine and cop car sirens.

 Smokey and the Bandit

Extras


Not only is it illegal to transport drink across states, it seems it's illegal to include the US extras on this UK release. Nothing to see her folks.

 Smokey and the Bandit

Overall


Smokey and the Bandit is sort of immune to criticism at this stage. It is what it is and I adore it for it, in it’s utterly charming but simplistic ways. Burt Reynolds shines in the lead, his charisma is all his own and with that laugh and his laid back cowboy hatted coolness, you’re on The Bandit’s side every step of the way. Sally Field supports that beautifully, she’s adorable here and Jerry Reed riding in his rig with all of his slang terms is movie gold all by itself. This film just rocks the basics of cinema. Car chases, goods guys and bad guys, a boy meets girl romp and a feel good attitude driving it throughout. The Blu-ray release does enough to jump it into the world of HD, it’s not the best HD presenation ever but it’s certainly miles ahead of the TV broadcasts I’ve been used to so it was an enjoyable upgrade on that level. Sadly, there are no extras on the disc, which for a film that's so deeply a cult favourite is an outright shame, this flick deserves some genuine full blown special treatment.

* Note: The images on this page are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the true quality of the source.


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