Smokey and the Bandit comes out of a genre of trucker films which weirdly enough came out of the popularity of trucker songs from the ’70s. The perfect example of this is Convoy directed by Sam Peckinpah which is based on the song of the same name. It also became Burt Reynolds’ signature role and the car became iconic.
The story is pretty much as basic as you can Burt Reynolds plays the bandit and is hired to bring some Coors beer over state lines. He takes his friend along The Snowman to drive the truck while he drives along in the blocker. The beer isn’t allowed to be legally sold east of the Mississippi River. The smokey of the title is the sheriff played Jackie Gleason who is in hot pursuit. Smokey picks up Sally Field’s Carrie for the ride who has just run away from her wedding.
The film is very much a film of its time for both good and bad. Burt Reynolds’ performance is very charming in the redneck way he is and he is very strong at light comedy. Sally Fields is very much the same but obviously like Reynolds can do stronger dramatic work. Jackie Gleason is having a blast as the sheriff and I don’t think he ever had as much fun in a role before or after.
Obviously given it’s from the ’70s it has moments of casual racism and sexism which a modern PC viewer may find problematic. The director Hal Needham tries his best to overlook the racism of the South from the film. The car chase and stunts which take up most of the running time is a whole lot of fun. It’s no masterpiece of cinema but for a trashy piece of American filmmaking you could watch something much worst and who does want a Reynolds stash?