Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Any Which Way You Can:' Go ahead, Clint, make some money

Title: Any Which Way You Can
Released: 1980
Genre: Cash-in sequel
Notable for: Clint's final role with an ape
Coolest thing Clint does: Keeps fighting with a broken arm

Clint never lacked interest in money. He created his own production company before such things were common for actors. By Hollywood's insane standards, he became renowned as a tightwad filmmaker. And, as the five Dirty Harry films demonstrate, Clint has no fear of milking a cash cow.

"Any Which Way You Can" is a cow that screams, "Moo, baby!" This sequel to "Any Which Way But Loose" is the same movie, only more so.

Anyone who disliked the 1978 original, a surprise hit that made more money than any other Eastwood movie to that point, will not like the sequel. There is not a shred of what cinema scholars might call "growth," or "thematic exploration," or "humor that is not gross and childish." What the film lacks in class, it makes up for in a wealth of jokes about ape shit on front seats of police cars.

For the millions who liked the original, "Any Which Way You Can" is even better. Newcomers to the experience of watching Clint cavort with an orangutan are advised to start with the sequel.

"Any Which Way You Can" follows the precise formula and has all the same characters as the first film, but some weaknesses are cleaned up.

Clint once again plays a good-natured bare-knuckle brawler who travels with an ape. Again they frequently encounter country music superstars (and, inexplicably, Fats Domino) performing in cheap honkytonk bars. Again Ruth Gordon is the lovably salty old lady. Again Sondra Locke is allowed to sing country music (click here if you must witness the horror). Again Clint's buddy Orville comes along for the ride. And again Clint is pursued by the world's goofiest gang of neo-Nazi bikers.

But this time the story is better for three reasons.

One: Locke's character comes crawling back to Clint and is kept in her place. To the extent the first movie revolved around anything, it revolved around Clint's senseless attraction to the total bitch played by Locke. In the second movie, the love story is mostly abandoned. Locke is more like a piece of scenery eager to screw.

Two: "Every Which Way But Loose" was mostly a collection of gags, and the better and more memorable gags are in the sequel. This movie, not the original, is where Clyde deposits the aforementioned ape shit in police cars and where he punches people outside the truck window. This is where Ruth Gordon goes all moony after getting laid. This is where she also drives to Bakersfield in a tow truck as sparks fly from a disintegrating car hooked on back. This is where Clint, copying Clyde, swings from a light fixture to put Locke in the mood for boinking.

Three: Unlike the original movie, "Any Which Way You Can" has an actual plot that builds to a climax. Even a stupid plot is better than none at all. Mobsters arrange for Clint to fight a dude so fearsome he literally killed his last opponent and crippled the one before that. Clint's friends convince him to cancel the fight, which causes the irate mobsters to seek revenge. They kidnap Locke and Clint agrees to fight after all. A wacky collection of high-rollers from around the country gathers for the fight. Along the way, Clint makes friends with his opponent and, finally, buddies up with the goofy Nazi bikers.

Clint received no Oscar nominations and no boost to his reputation as a serious filmmaker. But that's OK.

We refuse to criticize an artist who chooses to cash in when the opportunity to make money arises. Especially when the cash-in project is better than the original.

Next up: "Firefox."

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