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What Comes Around
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by Jack Sommersby

"Jerry Reed's Lackluster Directing Debut"
2 stars

A limited release that was critically panned, it's not exactly ripe for rediscovery.

Country-and-western singer Jerry Reed made quite the indelible impression as Burt Reynolds’s semi-truck-driving buddy in 1977’s hugely enjoyable Smokey and the Bandit. Charismatic and ingratiating, he more than held his own alongside pros Reynolds and Sally Field and Jackie Gleason -- his was an effortlessly easygoing screen presence, and with four of his songs gracing the soundtrack, Reed’s participation yielded a win-win situation for moviegoers. After that he was equally impressive as the Miami cop in Dom DeLuise’s Hot Stuff and the small-time hit man with delusions of grandeur in Michael Ritchie’s The Survivors. With What Comes Around, Reed not only has his first starring role but his first directorial credit as well: he plays Joe Hawkins, a Jack Daniels-swigging, pill-popping country-and-western sensation who’s back in Nashville as part of his twenty-five-year anniversary in show business; Hawkins is indeed a wreck, barely able to make it off his private jet and perform in front of an audience without either being drunk or drugged-up, or both. (Deglamourized and gaunt, Reed looks as if he’d just crawled out of a Skid Row alley. It were as if booze were constantly permeating from his pores.) Joe is increasingly being pushed to the breaking point by his dastardly longtime manager Leon (Barry Corbin), who’s gotten filthy rich off of him and turns out to be one crooked son of a bitch who’s been embezzling Joe’s millions in offshore tax havens and in business ventures he owns one-hundred percent of the profits of due to falsified power-of-attorney paperwork. Joe’s caring agent, Nancy (Esther Huston), is sympathetic to his plight and sees fit to telephone his estranged younger car-racing brother Tom (Bo Hopkins), who he hasn’t seen in two years. Tom is thankful for Joe putting him through college and providing the start-up capital for his business, but, being a family man with a wife and two young daughters, he sees Joe as a bad influence, and initially he declines to get dragged back into his sibling’s trails and tribulations. He relents, though; and in a particularly implausible sequence, Tom, with the help of his ambulance-driving friend Big Jay (Ernest Dixon), kidnaps Joe backstage during a concert, outmaneuvers five police cars in high-speed pursuit, and takes Joe to a rustic isolated cabin in the woods to dry him out. (It’s almost as if a projectionist as substance-abusing as Joe had mixed up the reels with B-roll from Smokey and the Bandit.) And there other hackneyed situations involving fistfights and, in the grand finale, a monster truck demolishing Leon's shopping center to smithereens.

Lacking the raw vitality of Darly Duke’s Payday, the emotional complexity of John Mellencamp’s Falling from Grace, What Comes Around is mediocre and meandering, and detrimentally bereft of an intriguing central character. This is a first-time screenplay by Peter Horrocks, and it’s strictly TV-movie material what with its numerous built-in climaxes, leaden dialogue (if I never again hear “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” anymore in my lifetime I’ll be eternally thankful), and by-the-book dramatics that are as revelatory as a health nut’s condemnation of junk food. Quite simply, Joe lacks a core, and because Reed gives a dolorous performance that’s way too held-in and monochromatic, the movie lacks a centrifugal force that would help carry us over the contextual lapses. Reed is acting “serious,” all right, but he’s emptied out his alert reserve and stomped out the easygoing charm that made us favorably respond to him in his previous roles; it takes both imagination and skill to lucidly convey the tortured inner-workings of a troubled soul, but Reed only gives us mere indication rather than interpretation -- even when Joe is finally performing in front of an audience sober for the first time in a very long while, Reed still doesn’t emanate much in the way of joie de vivre. And Reed the director hasn’t done this soggy star vehicle any favors. The visual schema is drab, narrative drive non-existent, and the shaping of scenes abysmal (in what should be the emotional crux, when Joe breaks down in front of love-interest Nancy and opens up to her in the bedroom he’s been a prisoner in for three tumultuous days, Reed inexplicably cuts away to an exterior scene completely diametric to what’s preceded it). Taking the easy way out, conniving Leon has been made out to be nothing more than a one-dimensional villain, and with a reformed Joe getting the upper hand it just doesn’t have the cumulative release called for because everything’s been so cheaply resolved. About the only thing I enjoyed was Hopkins’s commendable work. You may remember him from The Wild Bunch as the uncouth psychotic who marched those three bank employees into a safe and slaughtered them, and in the underrated horror movie Mutant he was first-rate as a small-town southern sheriff who overcame his drinking and roused himself to save the day (it still ranks as one of the best performances of the genre). Hopkins has the gift of transparency, and he’s seemingly incapable of doing anything false on the silver screen; he has an unusual rapport with the viewer, and there’s not a production he hasn’t helped just by showing up. What Comes Around is a mess, but the skillful Hopkins manages to provide it a few rooted moments.

A good reason to listen to Reed's albums instead.

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originally posted: 01/27/15 20:49:12
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USA
  02-May-1985 (PG)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Jerry Reed

Written by
  Peter Horrocks

Cast
  Jerry Reed
  Bo Hopkins
  Barry Corbin
  Melanie Wheeler
  Esther Huston



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