Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Deliverance.”
The Movie: “Deliverance”
Starring: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty
Director: John Boorman
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it’s dammed and turned into a lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a canoeing trip they’ll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93 percent
Froemming: After weeks of magical pants, dying hard and wrassling, I figured it was time for Brown and I to take a vacation. A canoe trip. A canoe trip down the biggest river in Georgia with the birds chirping, the water stirring and Burt (REDACTED) Reynolds cackling at his own jokes.
Wait…this is the first Reynolds movie we have watched?
Well, this isn’t exactly a relaxing vacation, nor the wise cracking antics of “Smokey and the Bandit,” for I picked “Deliverance.” A movie that pits city vs country, past vs future, man vs nature, Ned Beatty’s butt vs rapist hillbillies.
Now, I have never seen this movie. I have known about the infamous “squeal like a pig” scene since I bought Revolting Cocks’ “Beers, Steers and Queers” album at the ripe age of 14.
But yet, this is the first time I have seen the actual movie. What did I think? Well, that is what we are about to find out. Brown, as I maneuver this truck toward the river to get our canoes in the water, what are your first thoughts?
Brown: So full disclosure: I’m on vacation this week down in Florida. I crossed off canoeing as a potential activity thanks to this movie.
Like you, I had never seen this movie and knew of a few key moments. Namely Ned Beatty in his tighty-whities, and any reference to this movie that Sterling Archer brings up thanks to his infatuation with Burt Reynolds.
I’d never really known what kind of movie this was, whether it was a survival movie or a horror movie. It’s definitely a thriller.
And it most certainly ruined the Appalachian Mountains for generations, much like Mountain Dew mouth. Yeah, that’s a real thing. Google it if you like gross teeth.
I’m gonna get my bow ready while you lead us through the beginning, Froemming.
Froemming: We are introduced to our four city boys, Ed (Voight), Lewis (Reynolds), Bobby (Beatty) and Drew (Ronny Cox) as they hit the road for a little vacation in the Georgia backwoods, particularly canoeing down a river before it is dammed up and creates a lake where all these mountain folks apparently live.
Now, this is the first time I had to turn on subtitles, because these southern accents are pretty thick to my Northern ears, and I couldn’t understand a (REDACTED) thing Reynolds said in the first 15 minutes of this movie.
Brown: Legit question: Was Burt Reynolds actually acting in this movie?
Like, Lewis is having a whole lot of fun in this movie, whether it’s driving a truck recklessly through the trails or canoeing or bowfishing. Heck, even when he kills a man later, it seems like he gets a sick satisfaction of murdering a man off the grid.
Froemming: Are you saying there is something you can’t understand, how he could just kill a man!
Brown: Oh, I understand how Louis/Burt could kill that man. We’ll get to that later.
The only acting Burt seems to do is when, later in the movie, he breaks his leg. And all that acting is him acting uncomfortable while it looks like there’s a piece of chicken hanging off his leg.
Froemming: Reynolds is like Jack Nicholson, he essentially plays himself in every movie.
So our foursome find themselves at the world’s spookiest gas station, with people right out of the movie “Freaks” pumping gas and playing banjo. And everyone seems a little uneasy about it all, except our resident hippie Drew, who gets into a guitar/banjo jamboree with what I can only say is Jason Voorhees before he drowned at Camp Crystal Lake. This is also one of the most iconic scenes of the film.
Fun fact: I can play that banjo riff on guitar. Not the whole thing, I am not that good.
Brown: If you ever play that when I stay over at your house in the future, I’m getting a hotel three towns over.
Froemming: Quick aside, did this seem like people like us going on a canoe trip (minus a Burt Reynolds character)? Because I can definitely see this happening to you and I on a canoe trip in the South.
Brown: I’m the fat one, so that means I’m Ned Beatty, doesn’t it? I really don’t like this aside. Also, you can grow the mustache like Jon Voight.
Froemming: I mean in general, two city idiots getting caught up in a crazy situation in the backwoods of the south.
Anyway, Lewis pays some yokel $40 to drive them to the river and then drive their cars to the end of the river. But as they do it, Lewis starts driving like a madman. This is psychotic driving the likes I have not seen since the last time I visited St. Cloud, Minn. Lewis is cutting of the yokels and drives into a dead end, which we get a pretty solid joke from one of the hillbillies “It’s just the biggest (REDATED) river in the state.”
Brown: So a little later in the movie, Lewis has a line where he says that he doesn’t believe in insurance. Dude, have you seen how you drive? I believe in insurance to protect me from (REDACTED) bonkers people like you.
Froemming: Lewis was the first man to oppose Obamacare! Before there was even Obamacare!
Brown: That line also has a sick sense of irony since apparently this movie was made on the cheap, to the point where the actors had to do their own stunts and were not insured. It’s like the hillbillies directed this. This next fact will make sense of all this: Director John Boorman’s next movie after “Deliverance” was “Zardoz.”
So after some sketchy driving and an all-too-excited Lewis almost jumping out of his skin to turn into “Survivorman” like Michael Scott, we’re on the river.
The most baffling thing about this is Drew’s insistence on bringing his guitar along for the trip. Dude, you’re in a tiny canoe and you’re better off packing the bare essentials. Yeah, the dueling banjos bit was cool, but what else besides that? Honestly, if I were on the trip with him, I’d go Bluto on his instrument.
Froemming: Oh yeah. There is always that one guy who has to bring along the old guitar on outdoor vacations. Nobody wants to hear it, but they insist on playing “Classical Gas” for hours on end.
So our gang is in the water, and they are hitting rapids and whatnot, and as they find camp, Lewis grabs his bow and arrow to go fishing. That seems like a lot more work than a fishing rod with a piece of corn as bait.
We get it Lewis, you are a man’s man.
Brown: But we get to hear that classic Burt Reynolds laugh as he’s bowfishing.
Lewis is the only one who seems to have any sort of outdoor competency, but then he gets all strange talking about when civilization is over, the survivors are the only ones who’ll make it.
So yeah, Lewis is someone that I’m convinced has a fallout shelter that he’s currently living in after fearing Y2K. Seems like the kind of guy who’d store his own urine like he’s Howard Hughes, too.
With that being said, this is an awfully serene movie for the first 40ish minutes, to the point where I thought I had purchased a promotional video from the Appalachian tourism group or something.
Froemming: That serenity was nice because I watched this after work and it put me in a relaxed mood.
Until our canoers the next day decide to switch up the seating arrangements. This is after Ed took the bow and saw a deer, but shook like Barney Gumble without beer, and hit a tree.
Then they hit the water again, and Ed and Bobby get farther ahead than the other two, and make a stop. A stop that would change their lives forever. A stop that will also kick this movie into high gear of fear, violence, paranoia and murder. You know, the typical white-collar vacation.
Brown: Yeah, this movie escalates quickly.
In this pit stop, we see some locals traipsing through the woods, which catches the attention of our city slickers. Instead of just catching their breath and staying near the river, they decide it’s a good idea to go deeper into the woods to talk to this pair of shotgun-wielding weirdos.
Weirdos that go on to hold Ed and Bobby captive and, well, ask Bobby to start stripping down to his “panties.”
It’s not as fun as this iconic stripping scene from “Slapshot.” It’s much… darker.
Froemming: Bobby strips down as Ed is tied to a tree with his own belt, which means next time I go on a canoe trip, I am not wearing my belt so I can escape to freedom.
This is a pretty disturbing scene, poor Bobby is sodomized by hill folk as Ed hears the screams, a scene that Tarantino to give a nod to in “Pulp Fiction” at the pawn shop.
Now it is Ed’s turn, what with his pertty mouth and whatnot. Ed is going to be forced upon by a guy with what Brown alluded to earlier as “Mountain Dew mouth.” But before he gets assaulted, Ed sees Lewis in the woods with the bow, and Bobby’s tormentor gets an arrow through the chest.
This is probably what is in Bobby’s head now that the tables have turned.
Now, here is what I found interesting about this movie. We are so desensitized these days, that when people murder in movies, it is not a big deal. But in this movie, we see the moral and ethical ramifications of not only the murder of this man, who certainly had it coming, but how to proceed. Call the cops? Bury the body? These are not easy answers (well, for Lewis they kinda are) for our main characters. This is a theme that plays out for the rest of the movie. This isn’t John McClane having zero problems snapping a German’s neck, this is four dudes faced with the reality that they are now involved with a murder.
Brown: This probably speaks more to my ADD-addled brain, but that scene where they argue what to do with the dead body just drags. It’s getting close to the 10-minute mark, or at least feels that way.
Froemming: You are the next Ted Bundy, aren’t you?
Brown: Well, that’s a good segue into my next point… Why deal with the body? You’re in nature, let nature do its thing. That’s how Ted Bundy disposed of the bodies.
… I really need to stop staying up late to watch Ted Bundy docs on Netflix.
Froemming: Because they are not used to killing and dumping bodies like it is not a big deal. These are city folks, like you and I, dealing with the shock of what just happened. Also, Bundy picked areas that had little traffic so the corpses wouldn’t be found quickly.
Brown: Oh come now, you can tell Lewis has thought about killing a person and how to deal with the body. That man looks like he runs on bloodlust.
As for traffic, one guy would find it. They see no signs of civilization until the end of their river trip. That’s as isolated as you’re going to get.
Froemming: Ed, Bobby and Drew are not sociopaths like Ted Bundy. Quit comparing normal people to history’s most prolific serial rapist/murderer.
Brown: Quick aside about this whole scene: The lack of soundtrack here — well, throughout the entire movie — makes everything so much more tense. You really do get an idea how far away they are from any help thanks to the sounds of crickets and the wind blowing through the trees. It’s filmmaking done well.
Froemming: Anyway, they decided to take a vote, because of democracy and all. Drew wants to do the right thing and alert the authorities. It was a justified killing after all. But Bobby doesn’t want people to know he was raped, and Lewis is crazy and doesn’t want to deal with the cops. Ed goes with Lewis and Bobby, because it is the easiest solution? I dunno. Maybe this would have been prevented if Ed had put up a fight like he did with Kramer.
So they bury the body in a shallow grave and put some bark over it. You know, the perfect crime! Hell, Lewis says the whole area will be a lake in a few years, so who cares?
Brown: I’ll be honest: I was expecting the guy to suddenly come back to life. He took a LONG time to finally go down after taking AN ARROW THROUGH THE CHEST. I will chalk that up to moonshine giving people superpowers.
After getting their hands dirty by digging a grave, the group is shook. Drew is getting to the point where he’s nearly catatonic. That’ll play a role rather quickly as the group makes their way downriver with rapids quickly approaching.
Just before they need to maneuver around the rapids, Drew slumps over the front of the boat and gets swept up in the fast water.
This is just the beginning of their problems.
Froemming: It seemed like a real nice vacation before all the rape and murder happened.
So as they hit the rapids, Drew who is not wearing a life jacket (because of this movie, I will always sport a life jacket while in a boat) slumps right out of the canoe and the rapids flip everyone over, causing chaos and Lewis to have his leg get all sorts of jacked up.
But then we see them say Drew was shot! I didn’t hear any gunfire, so I thought I missed something, looked like the dirty hippie communist just fell out of the boat because he was stoned or something. So now Bobby, Ed, Lewis and us the viewers think “oh right, that other hillbilly is out there hunting them now!”
It causes panic, since we all think this yokel is up in the cliffs with his gun and bloodlust in his deformed body itching to knock them off. And they get Lewis onto some rocks, where his leg looks pretty gross.
Things are not looking up for these city slickers. And all because Lewis wanted to go canoeing rather than play golf.
Brown: Honestly, I’d rather canoe than play golf. I’d probably go fishing as opposed to canoeing for the same reason Ron Swanson enjoys fishing: It’s like yoga, but I still get to kill something.
Froemming: Remember ladies, this man likes to kill animals too. Like Ted Bundy.
Brown: Fish meat is delicious…
Like I mentioned before, it was a little hard to buy into Lewis’ leg being all mangled. It legit looked like they stapled a water-logged chicken thigh to Burt’s pants. It could have been river debris for all I know. Regardless, Burt kind of undersells how much excruciating pain one would be in if they had a broken leg so bad that bone was sticking through the leg. Then there’s the worry I have about gangrene.
But there’s no time for that when there’s an (alleged) shooter on the loose. That’s when Ed becomes John Rambo and ascends a gorge with the intent to kill a hillbilly with a rifle (not to be confused with “Hobo With A Shotgun”).
Dude, you trembled when you held a bow to a deer. Here’s my advice to you when it comes to taking a life.
Froemming: He does it at night, so the (alleged) shooter won’t see him. Gotta give him points for that. And this shows just how far along film technology has come over the years. The shots at night look (REDACTED) awful, like just bad.
Ed wakes up and sees some mountain man walking to the cliff. The guy checks all the boxes: Odd looking, skinny, weird clothes and a gun: It is Mountain Dew mouth out for revenge! So he grabs the bow and points. The other guy sees this and points his gun at Ed. The arrow flies, a shot goes off and Ed falls on an arrow like a klutz.
The man comes over with an arrow through his throat and dies in front of Ed. Ed checks the mouth and BOOM! Wrong guy. Ed just murdered an innocent man in cold blood, or did he? He could have been part of the rapist dudes’ crew. So he lowers the body with a rope and shows Bobby. Bobby says off the cuff “what if it was just some guy hunting” and you know what? It was. Spoiler: Dude was killed for no good reason. We learn that later!
Brown: Wait, that was the case? I didn’t catch that. I know after Ed kills the guy, he moves his mouth and finds the guy had some veneers where the previous guy was missing teeth so I assumed it was the same rapey fella.
Froemming: Guy had teeth, and the guy in town says his cousin or brother is missing, so two-and-two together means they likely killed the missing man who was out hunting. But they drowned him a bit up river that wasn’t being dragged later by the police.
So they get Lewis, who is in pretty rough shape, into a canoe and they drag the dead body with them for a bit, until they just weigh it down and hope for the best. They then find Drew’s body in the river, his arm pretty twisted up and while he has a hole in his head, it probably wasn’t a gunshot, more likely a rock.
Brown: I kinda thought Drew had just given up on life and fell into the river like he was Bojack Horseman.
Froemming: That is what I assumed too. I think he went into shock from the rape and murder and all and just fell in.
Brown: It was a bit of a shame that these city folk couldn’t have a proper funeral/send-off for Drew. But to show up with one body, that was just gonna start a whole chain of issues. Maybe he would have been OK had the lame-ass guitar not weighed him down.
Froemming: Maybe Ed later on gives him a proper send off like this.
Brown: After one more set of rapids, Ed, Bobby and a busted-up Lewis finally reach civilization. Turns out, the mechanics from before actually did drop off the cars, proving that there are still good people among the serial rapists and moonshiners in the backwoods.
With Lewis in dire need of medical attention, paramedics are brought in. That also means the police get involved to figure out what happened to the out-of-towners.
I do like that this added drama was in place to close out the movie as opposed to the trio getting to civilization and rolling credits. There needs to be repercussions for their actions, or at least the threat of repercussions.
Froemming: Oh yeah, we deal with Ed and Bobby’s paranoia of getting caught for not only killing a rapist, which would have been justified, but that innocent guy Ed killed on the cliffs. They try to keep their story straight, to alter it any would give the police (who are already suspicious of the yarn they are selling) a reason to look deeper. And they also need to alert Lewis that the story changed slightly as to what happened up at the rapids. We get these guys reeling from the trauma and guilt of what happened. They get to Lewis, who plays along and says he can’t remember what all happened because of his leg. And that townsfolk guy who is missing his relative knows these out of towners did something to him.
But with their stories all matching and no bodies, the police let them go. Let them go with a warning to never return. The sheriff says he wants this town to die peacefully (going back to before that these backwoods are going to be gone and underwater once the dam is built, and also that these communities are just dying in a modern world anyway).
It is a pretty heavy way for them to get away with murder, so I need this in my life right now:
In the end, we see Ed still is haunted by the fact he killed a man. An innocent man. He wakes up from a nightmare where the body’s arm floats to the top of the water.
Brown: This is the same nightmare Alice had at the end of “Friday the 13th.” That bloated hand could have easily been Jason Vorhees. Hell, could have been the banjo kid from before.
Honestly, it would have been pretty funny if Drew’s hand emerged and he was holding the neck of his water-damaged guitar. That would have been a hilarious way to end this otherwise downer of a movie.
Brown: Alas, Ed will one day get over his nightmares and discover Templar treasure. So all in all, he makes out pretty well in this whole thing. Lucky son of a bitch.
Now that we survived this Appalachian hellscape, let’s say we head on down to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Absolutely. It was one of the more interesting movies I have seen in a while.
Brown: I would. After watching this movie I was divided. But after talking about it here, it grew on me.