When looking at Malone I think it is important to put the film in the context of Reynolds’ career, by the mid ’80s his heyday was unfortunately over, and he ceased to be the superstar he once was. Box office duds like Stick (1985) and Rent-a-Cop (1988), along with unfounded rumors that he had contracted AIDS (he was actually suffering from a joint ailment), were career cyanide. The TV series Evening Shade provided Reynolds a brief pick-up and an Emmy, but when his marriage to Loni Anderson dissolved into an ugly, endless tabloid drama, Reynolds’ career (and product endorsement contracts) nosedived. He made Malone right in the eye of this storm.
Now let’s get one with it. Malone is a 1987 movie, starring Burt Reynolds and written by Christopher Frank and based on a novel by William P. Wingate. In addition to Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and Lauren Hutton also play major roles.
Malone (Burt Reynolds) has been a “wet” operative for the CIA for many years, serving his country by performing assassinations. He was tired of his job and wanted to get out of “the company” (as it is typically called) and live a “normal” life. He is driving through the Pacific Northwest, looking for a place to settle down, when his much-cherished classic Mustang has transmission problems and breaks down outside the town of Comstock. Reynolds manages to get to a small gas station and is treated like family by a Vietnam veteran, who owns the station, and his daughter. They are suffering from the nefarious activities of the local big cheese (Cliff Robertson) to take over all the land in the city and turn it into to some quasi- Posse Comitatus haven for “patriots.” By beating or killing some of the town’s hillbillies (in self-defense), Malone soon runs afoul of the town sheriff who is basically an employee of the developer. By the end of the film, though, he eventually wins the Sherriff’s respect. Starting with the most inept of the sinister henchmen, Malone is gradually drawn into the town drama until he achieves his final pyrotechnic victory and moves on—like Minfune’s Yojimbo or Eastwood’s man with no name.
Meanwhile, the CIA is none too pleased to hear of Malone’s intended retirement and sends a succession of hit-men after him to ensure that he divulges none of their dirty secrets. Malone destroys the first two killers at some cost to his own well-being. The next assassin turns out to be a woman who is susceptible to his charms.
As we know from Sharkey’s Machine, Reynolds is actually not a bad actor when he’s not trying to be “a good old boy” all the time. Cliff Robertson goes eerily over the top while Lauren Hutton is beautiful, brave and loyal (and I would expect nothing less). So what do we do with the formulaic movie clearly made by Reynolds because he needed the money? There is nothing evidently wrong with the film—it doesn’t look low budget, everyone seems to play their parts and get their lines straight. My advice to you is to enjoy it for what it is a damn good bad movie.