This action flick starring Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, and Jane Fonda was everything Judge David Johnson thought it could be. But he had to dock points because Robert Redford's character is named Bubber.
A breathless, explosive story!
Originally, the tagline for The Chase was "a breathless, explosive story of today." Well, seeing how Marlon Brando isn't the size of Detroit in the film, it's a safe bet that it's not "today" anymore.
Bubber Reeves (Robert Redford) is on a run of crap luck. Originally doing time for a robbery he didn't commit, he manages to escape from prison one day; unfortunately, his cohort kills a passerby, much to the chagrin of Bubber. As such, he decides to head for home, a Texas town full of hotheads and jerks.
In this town, a lot of potent personalities exist and sometimes are at odd with each other. Sheriff Calder (Marlon Brando) is an honest cop, looking only to forge his own living and buy some land that he can farm. Though he works for the town, he owes his livelihood to Val Rogers, a powerful oil baron and resident mover and shaker. Even when Rogers offers Calder some free acreage, the sheriff balks, intent on paying his own way.
But Rogers has some secrets to hide; his son is embroiled in a love affair with the sultry Anna (Jane Fonda), who just happens to be Bubber's wife. Meanwhile, Edwin Stewart (Robert Duvall) has been keeping his own secret: Turns out he was the one who committed the crime Bubber went to prison for.
This tenuous tinderbox of a town begins to spark when news of Bubber's escape hits. Rogers wants to cover up his son's licentiousness, Edwin fears for his life, and the sheriff has to hold it all together. Eventually, the slow-burn of emotion within the simple town-folk will ignite into a four-alarm fire.
A vigilante group forms, and general chaos breaks out. Sheriff Calder does what he can to stymie the flames, but he finds himself ambushed by the vigilantes, who then proceed to beat him to a pulp. All comes to the boiling point, when the town discovers Bubber's location, and converges on him—where a fiery climax awaits everyone.
The disc description lauds The Chase as "an action-packed drama." Well, it's not really packed with action, but it does layer the characterization on pretty thick. This is really a character-driven piece of film, and the cast reads like a Hollywood icon list: Redford, Fonda, Brando, Duvall. However, this is really Brando's movie. Duvall's role is small, and Redford's Bubber runs through swamps most of the movie; it isn't until the end that he gets the most play. Bubber is like the boogeyman, the invisible force that begins to tear the town apart.
Therefore it's left to Brando's Sheriff Calder to do what he can to keep things from getting totally unglued. Calder is a cool character, utterly honest, but certainly someone who shouldn't be messed with. And as the scenario spirals out of control at the end, Calder must become as ruthless as the vigilante mob that has assembled to smoke Bubber.
It's all pretty nifty, though at 2 hours and 13 minutes it runs fairly long. The length could wear on the low-attention-span viewer, as not much happens in terms of action.
But what will keep a few butts in the seats will be the who's who of actors and the deft way director Arthur Penn depicts the absolute moral deterioration of a community.
Columbia's treatment of the nearly four-decade-old film is okay. The widescreen picture is surprisingly crisp, especially considering the age of the print used. The colors are really sharp as well. Sound is a 2.0 mix, which is adequate for this type of film (see: "action, not-that-much"). Trailers constitute the lone bonuses.
Judge's Note: The film is unrated. Keep a lookout for Jane Fonda's steamy scene in the motel room, where she exposes her bare back!
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