Directed By: John Boorman
Written By: James Dickey
This is a really good movie only remembered for a few shocking minutes. There is so much more to this movie than those few shocking minutes too. This movie is about desperation, about the will to live and the struggle to survive. It’s about rising to the challenge and overcoming your fears (for Jon Voight, that is). It’s man versus man and man versus nature rolled into one. Nature is unrelenting, and man is cruel. These men go out seeking adventure and fall victim to both. While I do believe this movie is bigger than the one scene it is remembered for that scene is significant because it left such a mark on our culture. Deliverance references are so common that it has nearly become a facet of our society. Everybody’s favorite running joke when canoes or hillbillies are ever brought up.
I might have never seen this movie at all because of the connotations that surround it. I am not a fan of seeing rape in any film, whether it is of a man or a woman rape is an awful thing to see portrayed in film. Had this movie not been so good in general we wouldn’t own it at all. I don’t really think that the rape was even necessary, had they merely been robbed I don’t think the film would have been much different. It isn’t brought back up in the film after it happens really, other than Ned Beatty wanting to never speak about it. I suppose that it happened in the book and was larger part of the story than it ended up being in the film. This was Ned Beatty’s first role ever actually, I’m surprised he managed to have such a long career afterwards. What I find so disturbing about his famous scene is how he just gives up. You have to fight harder than that, it’s just so pathetic and degrading what they do to him. It is not a scene for the tender-hearted, it is really really awful what goes on in those woods. When Burt Reynolds and Ronny Cox show up they rescue Voight and Beatty but it’s too late for Beatty, he will never be the same again.
There is a song about this movie by comedian Steve Goodie that is sometimes played on the radio show I listen to in the mornings. It is a parody of Tom Petty‘s “The Waiting” called “Ned Beatty had the Hardest Part“. When I heard it for the first time I laughed so hard, and I immediately sought out the movie that evening because I had never seen it. I found the movie to be really impressive. From the very beginning the dueling banjos scene sets the tone for film. These men go on to find themselves in a dire situation that tests all of them in ways they never could have expected. This movie has a real and authentic feel to it. I have never read the book that this film was based on but I understand that it follows the book closely.
This film has a great cast. I like Ronny Cox better in his later years when he usually plays a bad guy, but it is cool to see him so young. He is part of the famous dueling banjos scene. The boy with the banjo in the scene is actually the same guy seen as the giant in Big Fish and as Tiny in two of Rob Zombie’s films. Burt Reynolds is very good in the film too and I mistakenly thought him to be the hero before I saw the film. He might have been the hero too but he actually did break his coccyx in the scene where his character breaks his leg so bad. It may have happened that way in the book for all I know though. The hero is undoubtedly Jon Voight as he is the one who saves them all in the end. Overcoming his fears in order to survive. When he scales that wall to go after the hillbilly I think we all find ourselves on the edge of our seats. Ned Beatty couldn’t even help himself when the hillbillies stole his dignity, he was in no position to help when things got really ugly. You can really feel the struggle that Voight’s character has to go through, the fear he feels when he actually faces his attacker. It was a great performance by Voight, probably the best I have seen from him. It’s weird for me because I grew up with all of these men as old men, and they are so young in this film.
I feel comfortable telling you that this film is worth your time because it is. Every time I see this movie I am impressed with how good it actually is. Despite all the jokes made about it and the horrible connotations that surround this film it really is a good movie that I think you should see. The story goes on for a while and seems to drag but it is intense throughout and an unrelenting thriller.
I didn’t watch this movie. I trust Ryan when he says it is really good but I didn’t make it far when we started to watch it again. I didn’t even make it to “the incident.” This movie isn’t for women, in fact there aren’t even any women in it until a couple seen in passing in the very end. With that being said, I am OK with not having watched this movie.
NEXT MOVIE: Demolition Man (1993)