Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sydney Pollack Week: The Electric Horseman

Howdy buckaroos!   Day 3 of Sydney Pollack Week and we will examine how far a man can fall from grace and yet still have an award winning smile.   A story of a man that plummeted from the upper echelons of his career, sells out to be a corporate shill and still get the girl in the end.   Preposterous you say?   Perhaps but this little romantic thriller/comedy may surprise you.   So gather your spurs, get in the shoot and hang on for at least 8 seconds.    This is The Electric Horseman.
Absent of dignity

Spoilers be the damnedest things…

Sonny Steele (Robert Redford of This Property Is Condemned, Jeremiah Johnson, The Way We Were, Three Days of the Condor, The Last Castle and Spy Game) is a former championship rodeo rider fallen on hard times is using his last gasps of fame to market breakfast cereal.  Yes, Wheaties can help any fallen athlete in struggles of destitute but sadly he is plugging Ranch Breakfast.   His fat cat boss, Hunt Sears (John Saxon of Enter the Dragon, Mitchell, Desire, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Craving Heart and War Wolves) is not worried about keeping Sonny on a leash and therefore is all sorts of vile. 
Don't wanna go barefoot in the park, woman!

Chasing disappointment away with booze, Sonny is dressed in this ridiculous lit up cowboy suit and prances about almost as much as his equine counterpart Rising Star. It was only later is discovered the horse was drugged and previously injured.   Wow, Sin City lied to the world and you Sonny?  Say it ain’t so.   After discovering this horrendous mistreatment of an animal Sonny becomes disillusioned and disgusted with the current course of his life.   He then steals Rising Star from Caesar’s Palace where they are being held, gallops out the Strip and travels cross-country to release him in a remote canyon where majestic herds of wild horses roam.

Hallie Martin (Jane Fonda of Barefoot in the Park They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, Barbarella, Klute, Julia, Coming Home, The Morning After and Old Gringo), an inspiring TV reporter assigned to cover this decadent event hears of the reward that Sears offers and the lack of concern wither or not Sonny comes back alive so long as Rising Star is returned.  Sensing there is more to this story than Sears will cop to, tracks Sonny down for the headline that may just make her career solid.  She missed Watergate so it is Horse Thief or nothing.  Still struck me as odd that you drop 12 million clams on a horse and no protection in the event your star goes diva and rides away?   Guess even Vegas couldn’t cover the odds of that happening.
Aww what a downy clowny...

Okay this is the part where I will nitpick a bit.   The villains in this piece are a bit one-dimensional and easily thwarted in my opinion, the sheer bravado of out foxing the local authorities, the quest in question feels a bit farfetched but the story overall is got a good tone of one man sticking it to hypocrisy of just making a buck, romance is found on the way and while this is a late 70’s film the tone is more hopeful than the typical cynical writing of the time.   Writer Robert Garland (Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty, Toostie, No Way Out and The Big Blue) created a decent romp through the desert and made an unlikely pairing of two completely different people.   No I do not think the film is genius but it is clever and warm.   Also has starring Willie Nelson as a ranch hand with the infamous quote of the film and NO I am not about to ruin it but suffice to say it will curl and straighten your hair.