Burt Reynolds returns as Gator McKlusky, the moonshine-running king of the Bayou, in this high-octane sequel to White Lightning. Filled with super-charged adventure and double-barreled action - and co-starring Lauren Hutton as a sexy TV reporter - Gator is a fast and furious ride you won't want to miss!
The Feds want Gator. Not for moonshining, but to go undercover to expose Bama McCall (Jerry Reed), Gator's boyhood pal who is now a local crime boss. Gator is reluctant at first, but once he discovers Bama is involved in extortion, prostitution... and murder, the suspense builds to an explosive climax, as old friends become deadly enemies.
Three years after the box office success of 1973's 'White Lightning', Burt Reynolds reprised the role of convicted moonshine runner Bobby “Gator” McKlusky in 'Gator'. The sequel also found him making his feature-film directorial debut. In addition to producers Arthur Gardner and Jules V. Levy, a number of crewmembers returned to ease Reynolds' expanded workload; they included screenwriter William W. Norton, special effects artist Cliff Wenger, and most importantly, second-unit director/stunt coordinator Hal Needham.
Not only does 'Gator' take place after the events of 'White Lightning', but quite a few events have taken place since audiences last saw Gator. He did a second stint, 26 months, in state prison for running moonshine, and he has a nine-year-old daughter named Suzie (Lori Futch) who lives with him and his father out in the Okefenokee Swamp. Considering John Steadman now plays the role instead of Dabbs Greer, the story may well take place in a parallel universe, which could also explain Gator now having a moustache. Of course, the more likely explanation is a production team assuming audiences wouldn’t care and I can't imagine anyone outside of Greer's family would since it's a brief part at the beginning of the movie.
This sequel repeats a number of elements from the first film. Gator again works for federal authorities except this time it isn’t his idea to go undercover. Federal agent Irving Greenfield (Jack Weston), whose outsider status is magnified by making the character from New York and Jewish, coerces Gator into gathering for tax-evasion evidence by not only threatening him with a return to prison but also threats of his father going to jail, and his daughter being sent to multiple foster homes. Naturally, Gator complies; however, getting to him with the details isn't so easy, which allows Needham and his team to crate some wild stunts involving boats.
The tax-dodger this time is a mean old fella named Bama McCall (Jerry Reed), who effectively runs Dunston County, Georgia. He is so well connected he doesn't even try to hide his crimes, informing a strip-club manager he's going to burn the place down since he hasn't received his "insurance" payment and freely wielding and using a sawed-off shotgun in the street. Turns out Bama and Gator are old friends from way back, so Gator is able to get a job, but some areas of Bama's operation turn him off, dire things that come as a surprise for what has been a light-hearted affair up to that point. Reed is wonderful as the heavy here also does a great job singing the film's theme song.
A love story between Gator and local TV reporter Aggie Maybank (Lauren Hutton) is needlessly tacked on and brings the film to a screeching halt. The two join forces to take down Bama and end up uncovering some very incriminating documents about him and other officials. While going through them with Irving, and knowing the police and Bama are after them, Gator and Aggie inexplicably decide to take a walk on the beach, which leads to them sitting around a fire and talking, which in turn leads to a night of lovemaking. After the odd romantic interlude, the film resumes in presenting what the audience has been accustomed to watching so far.
Like many sequels, 'Gator' comes up short when compared to it the original film, but there's enough here from Reynolds, Reed, and Needham to provide some entertainment.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber Studio Classics present 'Gator' on a 25GB Region A Blu-ray disc housed in a standard blue case. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 2.35:1. During the opening scene and credits, white specks and black marks are visible, and then the picture looks clean for the rest of the film. A light grain is visible and it intensifies during the exterior shot when Gator wakes up and finds himself at the county line.
The colors appear in realistic hues like the green vegetation and Bama's cherry-red car. A great example of a how well the video handles a variety of color is on display during the rally for the mayoral election. This sequence also shows how well the video handles depth and detail. Texture detail is strong in many scenes, from the large planks on buildings to small details on walkie-talkies. Blacks are well rendered.
Unfortunately, there are a number of scenes where the entire frame is out of focus. It happens when Gator and Irving meet, during Gator's first pick-up for Bama, and when he sneaks into the county courthouse. There's another scene where Irving is at a bar, that just the right side of the frame is fuzzy.
The audio is available in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono that is free of hiss and wear. Dialogue is understandable throughout, including the Southern accents. However, some of the dubbed voices sound hollow and not natural. The track is well balanced. Irving's voice can even be heard over a boat engine. Bernstein's score is robust and the bass during the theme song has a good bottom end.
The effects some times miss the mark. Some of the crashes during the boating sequence sound a bit flat, but then a lone hubcap spinning on the ground after a crash sounds clear and believable. Explosions were good enough, but never sounded great.
While the weaknesses in the film's Audio/Video presentation keep me from recommending the average viewer buy this Blu-ray, 'Gator' offers enough action and laughs to at least make watching the film feel like time (mostly) well spent. Give it a rent.