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Sunday, February 27, 2011

THE LAST AMERICAN HERO (1973)

At 24, Jeff Bridges is already a fully-developed screen presence in his first leading role. He’s a good ol’ boy from No Carolina who learned how to drive and how to flaunt authority running moonshine for his dad on the backroads. The fact-inspired story tells how he put his talents to better use on the stock car circuit. There’s nothing particularly new or surprisingly going on here, but Lamont Johnson helms with a pleasing attention to the details of character, cars & location that never feels forced. He lets us register the local color on our own. And it’s cast like a dream, Gary Busey is just right as Bridge’s brother while Ned Beatty, Geraldine Fitzgerald & Valerie Perrine all find legit avenues for their heightened personalities. As the moonshining father, Art Lund gets the worst of the script, he and his two boys might be auditioning for DEATH OF A MOONSHINER or something, but it passes. Neither the film nor Johnson’s rep ever quite took hold (the lame, misleading title certainly didn’t help on this one), but it’s just the sort of big little film we hardly see anymore.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: If you click on the (ghastly) poster to enlarge it, and read the copy, you'll discover that Jeff Bridges was the 'Dude' right from the start.

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