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Review: Honkytonk Man

Clint Eastwood’s dust bowl drama is a sensitive road picture about a mostly luckless aspiring country music singer.

Honkytonk Man
Photo: Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood’s dust bowl drama Honkytonk Man is a sensitive road picture about a mostly luckless aspiring country music singer. It was also one of the earlier films directed by Eastwood to reveal the unmistakable disparity between the silent assassin persona audiences had come to embrace in him and the much gentler humanist behind the camera. Anchored by an unforced if slightly episodic screenplay by Clancy Carlile (based on his own novel), Eastwood cast his own son Kyle as his on-screen nephew, Whit. The two of them (accompanied by a mostly peripheral Grandpa figure) escape the parched Okie land on a road trip to Nashville, where Red Stovall (Eastwood) expects an audition at the Grand Ole Opry. Stopping at various whorehouses, poker dens, and juke joints along the way, Whit comes to respect the man he first witnesses passed out drunk at the wheel of his car. Though the film is obviously coated with a veneer of nostalgic sentimentality, Eastwood never lets Honkytonk Man veer into maudlin territory. In fact, the film’s construction is so smooth, the tragic finale manages to be foreshadowed enough to not seem gratuitous. Eastwood followed the box-office non-event of Honkytonk Man the very next year with yet another installment in the Dirty Harry series: Sudden Impact. In light of the bitter truths of Honkytonk, the financial success of Sudden Impact seems less like a case of the Phoenix rising from the ashes, but rather Freddy or Jason rising from the grave one more time.

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Kyle Eastwood, John McIntire, Alexa Kenin, Matt Clark, Barry Corbin, Jerry Hardin, Macon McCalma, Joe Regalbuto, Verna Bloom Director: Clint Eastwood Screenwriter: Clancy Carlile Distributor: Warner Bros. Running Time: 123 min Rating: PG Year: 1982 Buy: Video

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