Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) is getting too banged up to remain Hollywood's top stuntman, but he signs up as the stunt coordinator for a big-budget action movie with a pushy director (Robert Klein) and a clueless star (Adam West). Ready to retire from the physical abuse, Hooper is gearing up to make the film's climactic stunt his biggest ever, but cocky young stuntman Ski Chinski (Jan-Michael Vincent) aims to steal the glory with his more scientific, technology-oriented stunt methods.
The western '100 Rifles' (1969) was the first time actor Burt Reynolds and stuntman Hal Needham worked on the same film. Needham, who also did stunt coordinating, doubled for Reynolds regularly and moved onto directing second-unit scenes. For over a little more than a decade, much of their best work occurred on the same pictures. Their partnership hit its peak when Needham directed his first feature, the action comedy 'Smokey and the Bandit'.
Creating the second highest-grossing film of 1977 gave Needham clout for his follow-up, an ode to the unsung heroes of the movies, his fellow stuntmen and stuntwomen whose work by its very nature was little recognized by the public. It also helped to reteam with his good friend Reynolds, the #1 box-office star at the time, who played the title role of 'Hooper'.
As the film opens, Sonny Hooper dresses for a motorcycle stunt like a toreador preparing to face death in the bullring. Sonny currently works as the stunt double for Adam West, playing himself, in 'The Spy Who Laughed at Danger'. He has to deal with pompous director Roger Deal (Robert Klein) whose "last picture made over a 100 million dollars," so his sense of entitlement is backed by the studio.
More troubling for Sonny is his deteriorating body. He can't handle the abuse it suffers no matter how much he self-medicates combining Percocet and alcohol in amounts that upset his live-in girlfriend Gwen (Sally Field) greatly. Sonny is also reminded that retirement is closer than he would like with the arrival of Delmore "Ski" Shidski (Jan-Michael Vincent), a young man who gets the stunt community's attention quickly by skydiving into a benefit.
'Hooper' suggests people have to be a bit crazy to go into this line of work as their off hours are just as dangerous when on a movie set. As Hooper and the gang drive to the Palomino club at a high rate of speed, they bump into each other's cars, drive on the wrong side of the road, drink beers as they drive (obviously drunk driving was taken seriously in the late '70s), jumping between cars, and leaving the wildest for Sonny, driving backwards. While at the club, they get into it with SWAT members (Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Terry Bradshaw?) visiting from Houston, leading to an absolutely ridiculous bar fight.
Roger wants to rewrite the film and Ski suggests a jump over a 325 ft gorge, almost twice as long as previous record. Although told the next stunt may paralyze or kill him, Sonny wants $100,000 to split it between him and Ski since the rocket-car stunt is a two-man job. This leads to an amazing climax as the big stunt scene plays out. Led by the charm of Burt Reynolds, the blend of action and comedy makes for another enjoyable film from Needham.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Brothers presents 'Hooper' on a 25GB Region Free Blu-ray disc in an eco-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 1.78:1. The colors shine in vibrant hues. When Sally Field is first seen, she appears in a rich red top and bright white shorts. A bit of banding appears in the material of the front part of her shirt, but the combination of the texture details being so fine and her lack of undergarments, it likely won't bother most men.
The blacks are inky and contribute to good contrast. However, during the final action sequence, the blacks crush within the interior of the rocket car. Also, the scene where the crew waits below as Ski descends the exterior of a building appears a touch darker, likely a source issue.
The picture looks clean through except when showing the reels of Sonny's stunts, they intentionally appear damaged and dirty. There's a natural amount of film grain throughout, but during the scene when Ski meets Jacko (Brian Keith) where the sky reflects off the top of a horse trailer, the grain looking like a swarm of buzzing insects.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and delivers a better than expected experience than most discs with mono sound. Having a source that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sounds likely helped with the end result. The audio sounds free of defect from age or wear. The dialogue is always clear. The music sounds great and the loud effects from the stunts contribute to a satisfying dynamic range. All the elements are mixed well together.
With entertaining films like 'Hooper' on his resume, it is easy to see why Burt Reynolds was such a star in the late '70s. He was the coolest guy on screen and with the occassional knowing wink at the camera, he made audiences feel like they were in it together. Although they failed to provide some worthy special features, Warner Brothers did a very fine job with the disc's high-def presentation. Recommended.