Picks and Pans Review: Stick

updated 05/13/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/13/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

For the first 10 minutes or so, director-star Burt Reynolds gets the tone of this film version of Elmore Leonard's gritty 1983 crime novel exactly right. You can almost smell the seedy side of Florida rotting in the sunshine. And the bearded Reynolds, as a just-released con with a conscience, has the big, sad and quiet quality the part calls for. Reading the credits is reassuring, too. That's where you learn that Leonard, a fine, neglected writer whose 24th novel, Glitz, has at last won him bestseller status, collaborated (with Joseph C. Stinson) on the script. Regrettably, from the look of things, Reynolds sent Leonard home after that first promising scene. In any case, few movies have ever disintegrated as fast as Stick. If the first 10 minutes prove Reynolds could have done it well if he wanted to, the remaining 99 seem to prove he didn't care. When Stick shaves his beard and takes a job as chauffeur to a loudmouthed millionaire, George Segal, the movie switches gears. It lapses into farce curdled by the kind of hyped-up violence (severed hands, black magic torture, etc.) whose inspiration is desperation. Segal hams shamelessly, as does Charles (Tootsie) Durning, playing a sadistic drug smuggler. They're not bad, just inappropriate. Candice Bergen is wasted as Reynolds' absurdly conceived love interest. There's something sad about watching a man as talented as Reynolds grinding a filet mignon project into hamburger for no apparent purpose. This is the kind of ain't-l-a-tough-guy? vanity production Frank (Tony Rome) Sinatra and Dean {Matt Helm) Martin tried to foist off as fun in the 1960s. Plagued by well-publicized health problems during the filming (unmotivated exercise sequences are used to explain the star's dramatic weight loss from scene to scene), Reynolds may indeed have had a difficult time doing this picture. Like the pro he is, he tries not to let the strain show. What does show in Stick is Reynolds' lack of faith in himself to be more than a movie star. The man who contributed so much to such admirable films as Deliverance, Semi-Tough, Hooper, Starting Over, The Man Who Loved Women and Sharky's Machine is better than that. He's missed. (R)

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