Burt Reynolds is back as good ol’ boy Gator McKlusky, a former moonshiner who is released from jail (again) to get the goods on a skeevy Southern fried racketeer (Jerry Reed) with a penchant for underage girls.
Unlike its predecessor White Lightning, Gator actually features Reynolds sporting his trademark moustache. I have a theory about Reynolds’ acting technique. In the old days, whenever Burt didn’t have a moustache, he was “acting” (like in Deliverance); when he did, he let the moustache do all the work. Gator is no exception.
Burt does his usual shtick here except not as well since he was probably too busy with his directorial duties. (This was his directing debut.) He maybe slightly off his game in front of the camera but that still doesn’t stop him from making half-baked wisecracks like “You’re going to stick out like a bagel in a bucket of grits” and doing that little high pitched laugh of his every chance he gets. Directing wise, well… Burt isn’t much of a director. He doesn’t have any real cinematic style and lets scenes play out way too long without much consequence. The pacing is also woefully bloated and the film is drawn out to a whopping 116 minutes.
Gator has all the normal stuff you’d find in a Burt flick, just not as much of it. There are motor boat chases through the swamps, people being thrown through plate glass windows, and lots of hot women (including Lauren Hutton). The problem is that there is way too much slow paced plot stuff stuck in between. At least there’s a great theme song by Jerry Reed that contains the awesome lyric “Everything’s okey dokey in the Okefenokee”. It should be said that Reed gives an energetic performance as the thoroughly despicable villain and easily steals the movie from the sleepy-eyed Burt.
Talk show legend Mike Douglas also has a small role as the Governor who in the opening scene says, “Incompetent crap!” which should give you an idea of what to expect from the rest of the film.
Reynolds and Reed teamed up the next year in the immortal Smokey and the Bandit.