Hooper (1978)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/12/18
Director: Hal Needham
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Jan-Michael Vincent, Sally Field, Robert Klein, James Best, Terry Bradshaw, Adam West

Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) is one of the best stuntmen in the business, but his job is taking a heavy toll on his body, his health, and his relationship with his girlfriend, Gwen (Sally Field). He's working with an obnoxious director (Robert Klein) on a big budget action film called "The Spy Who Laughed At Danger" starring Adam West (as himself), when a young and reckless stuntman known as "The Kid" (Jan-Michael Vincent) shows up and catches everyone's attention. He's an obvious threat to Hooper and his veteran stunt team, but instead of directly competing with him, Hooper takes him under his wing. Realizing The Kid's potential, Klein rewrites his script and comes up with an outrageous stunt-filled climax that could leave both Hooper and The Kid dead. Ignoring every instinct to walk away, can Hooper pull off that infamous "one last stunt" before retiring?

The film wasn't much to my liking, and I only gave it three stars to reflect the age of the film and the time period when it was made. It suffers from an overbearing goofiness that was prevalent in the 1970's and 1980's, and the dialog is painfully bad. The underlying story focuses on Hooper's mid-life existential crisis and foreshadows a tragedy that never happens. Whether that's good storytelling or not is up for grabs. Overall, the tone is playful and energetic, which allows the audience to lose themselves in the endless stream of stunts and gags. Burt Reynolds is immensely charming as Hooper, and the supporting cast is delightful. The final stunt sequence (known as "Damnation Alley") is a thrilling spectacle of destruction that makes the whole film worthwhile. However, my biggest takeaway was how socially irresponsible the film is. Hooper and his friends are reckless and dangerous, and there's not a single driving scene where the driver doesn't have a can of Coors in their hand. It's crazy to think that drinking and driving was considered the norm back in the 70's. The characters also have no respect for the law, and are constantly pranking the ineffective and bumbling police. It's an interesting time capsule and a sobering reminder of the camp and silliness that was popular at the time.