Picks and Pans Review: Stuntman

updated 11/10/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/10/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

Peter O'Toole's reputation as one of the screen's most eccentric personalities will doubtless be enhanced by this strange, episodic story of a movie director gone mad—or so it seems. It's hard to tell. The story line is deceptively simple: A stuntman on a movie set is accidentally killed, endangering the whole project. Enter Steve Rails-back, last seen on ABC's From Here to Eternity, who is fleeing the law for an unspecified reason. O'Toole, as the director, learns Railsback is a fugitive and offers him a deal: If he'll take the place of the dead stuntman, O'Toole will shield him from the law. What follows is a rollercoaster movie-with-in-a-movie that will test the attention span of even the most patient audience. Barbara Hershey, making a screen comeback of sorts since 1977's The Last Hard Men, plays a sexy, unstable leading lady who beds down with Railsback and seems part of O'Toole's sinister determination to coax him into increasingly dangerous stunts. The movie is by turns ridiculous, stunning and baffling as director Richard Rush keeps up a manic pace. O'Toole performs the film's most accomplished stunt, a roaring, off-the-wall performance that holds it all together—if only for a while. (R)

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