Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
Directed by James Fargo
Written by Jeremy Joe Kronsberg
Produced by Robert Daley
You’d think that at the very least, Every Which Way But Loose would rank as the best beer drinkin’, bareknuckle brawlin’ flick with an orangutan ever made, but actually, its 1980 sequel Any Which Way You Can holds that title. A huge hit that defied the expectations of Warner Bros. and most of Eastwood’s advisers retains a shaggy sort of charm in the grand scheme of things. Though a slapdash effort for sure, it’s one whose redneck hero is revealed to have a heart as big as his pet ape, or a country western ballad perhaps. It lopes forward with little organizing intelligence, but when it comes to pure heehaw entertainment, I’d rather see a movie full of stupid pet tricks and stupid human tricks than what Burt Reynolds devolved into after Smokey and the Bandit — giving his fans stupid car tricks.
James Fargo was an assistant director who worked for Eastwood on Joe Kidd before being promoted to direct the second Dirty Harry sequel The Enforcer, then Every Which Way But Loose. His work bears the signs of moving at light speed to keep the boss happy. Any business accompanied by punches or by the orangutan — who was named Manis and extraordinarily trained by Bobby Berosini — does have a merry quality to it. The movie also captures a tumbleweed vibe that was suburban Los Angeles in the ‘70s, with the country western tunes (Mel Tillis and Cliff Crofford perform in the film) that might entail. Appearances by Ruth Gordon and Beverly D’Angelo are highlights too, but regardless of how young your inner child, there’s no getting around how sloppy the material is and lazy the execution of it plays.
Pacoima truck driver Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood) ekes out a living in bareknuckle pickup fights arranged by his buddy Orville Boggs (Geoffrey Lewis). A man of simple tastes, Philo spends his time repairing cars, hanging out with his pet orangutan Clyde — who he bet his truck and two motorbikes to set free from a roadside zoo — and drinking beer at the Palomino. When an aspiring country western performer named Lynn Halsey Taylor (Sondra Locke) takes the stage, Philo experiences love at first sight; Lynn agrees to let Philo give her a ride home, but he declines an invitation to spend the night when the trailer park diva reveals she lives with a boyfriend. When Lynn takes off to Colorado unexpectedly, Philo, Clyde and Orville hit the road after her.
Philo leaves Southern California on the hit list of some bitter customers whose faces have had a close encounter with his fist, including two cops (Gregory Walcott, James McEachin) Philo accidentally beat up at the Palomino, and The Black Widows, the least intimidating motorcycle gang in the Southland, who made the mistake of harassing Clyde. Led by Cholla (John Quade), the Black Widows pay a visit to Orville’s cantankerous Ma (Ruth Gordon), who runs the sissies off with a shotgun. Picking up a produce stand girl (Beverly D’Angelo) who Orville shows a fancy for, Philo blunders into Lynn in Colorado, but learns she is less than thrilled to see him again. The brawler with a broken heart channels his energy into a pickup fight against the legendary Tank Murdock (Walter Barnes).
Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 13 users: 31% for Every Which Way But Loose
Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available
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