Surprise! I was on a bit of a Clint kick after Every Which Way But Loose yesterday, and since I had the sequel gathering dust I figured I would give it a shot. So, is this Clint’s Empire Strikes Back? His Godfather Part 2? Or is it his Exorcist 2? Let us see…
Any Which Way You Can
Everybody gets laid, even Ma!
Well the answer is this is Clint’s Ocean’s 12. Hey, come back! Go with me on this one: everybody returns, the gang goes travelling to new locations, the stakes are higher, and in every frame you can see how much fun they were all having. Even a previous antagonist becomes a grudging compadre by the end! (And yes, I know that was Ocean’s 13. I’d like to see you come up with a better analogy)
Quick plot recap: Philo is still fighting around LA, but his fame is growing. Beekman, a mobster from New York, wants to put on a fight between Jack Wilson – the legendary William Smith, of Red Dawn fame – from the East Coast and a guy from out west. He’s given Philo’s name as the man to beat, so he sends his goons to Ma’s place with a $10,000 dollar advance on a $25,000 payday. Of course, Philo’s in. Meanwhile, Lynn Halsey-Taylor’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse and she is back in town and playing at the Palomino again. After the way things were left in Denver, he initially doesn’t want to talk to her, but Lynn soon breaks Philo down and he takes her back to the house. With Lynn back in his life and things going well, Philo decides to back out of the fight and offers Beekman his money back. Beekman’s having none of it and, to make sure Philo goes ahead, he kidnaps Lynn. Philo, Orville and Clyde head off to Jackson, Wyoming to get Lynn back and teach Beekman a lesson or two, with The Black Widows once again in hot pursuit.
So what’s good here? In short: everything. The story seems like a natural progression for these characters. It builds on what has gone before but without seeming too repetitive. The scope is nicely expanded as well, but not too much to seem ridiculous. In particular, I like what the writers did with Wilson. Normally in this type of story, the fighter to be faced at the climax would be just another of the bad guy’s goons, albeit probably bigger and more monosyllabic. Here, Wilson doesn’t even work for Beekman. He’s a fighter on a contract, that’s it. He’s also an honourable man, well-dressed and intelligent. He engineers a meeting with Philo to get the measure of him and the two instantly like each other. Philo ends up saving his life while they’re jogging together around the edge of a quarry. When Wilson finds out where Beekman has stashed Lynn, the first thing he does is to go tell Philo, then helps get her back. By the time the two of them got down to the fighting, I didn’t want either one of them to lose.
I also love the way the entire town of Jackson is not only fully aware of the supposed secret, illegal fight, but appears to have got a piece of the action. As for the mooks, they’re caricatures. Despite the kidnapping and the guns, they aren’t presented as particularly threatening, and Michael Cavanaugh seems to enjoy the whole Yogi Bear thing he’s got going on with his line readings. Weird, but kinda fun.
Buddy Van Horn has replaced James Fargo as director, but the change in personnel hasn’t affected the visuals. There is no jarring variation in style. You still get the great POV shots in the fights, for example. While we’re talking about fights, the final dust-up is fantastic. Philo and Wilson knocking seven shades of shit out of each other just to see which one’s better, it starts in a shed and moves out through seemingly the entire town. I was watching this with a friend of mine today. He’s actually a boxing announcer, and he told me this is one of his favourite cinematic scraps. I’m inclined to agree.
And then there’s the music. In case you weren’t already aware, I love me some country tunes and these two flicks are both packed full of them, to the extent that I’m going to go soundtrack-hunting as soon as this column is up. You even get Glen Campbell and Fats Domino (among others) appearing here in the club scenes and a great little duet between Clint himself and Ray Charles over the opening credits.
Both Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can are likely to become regular double-bill material in my house. Once I get this damn year out of the way, that is.