Stick (film)

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Stick film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Burt Reynolds
Produced by Jennings Lang
Robert Daley
Written by Elmore Leonard
Joseph Stinson
Based on novel by Elmore Leonard
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date
  • April 26, 1985 (1985-04-26)
Running time
109 minutes
Language English
Budget $22 million
Box office $8,489,518[1]

Stick is a 1985 American crime film based on Elmore Leonard's novel, and starring and directed by Burt Reynolds.[2]


Ernest "Stick" Stickley (Burt Reynolds), a former car thief, has just been released from prison after serving seven years for armed robbery. He meets up with an old friend, Rainy (Jose Perez), who talks Stick into accompanying him for a "quick stop" near the Florida Everglades before they go to his home. The "quick stop" turns out to be an illegal drug deal set up by Rainy's dealer, Chucky (Charles Durning), that goes sour. Chucky's albino henchman, Moke (Dar Robinson), kills Rainy, but Stick gets away. Stick must now hide out for a while to elude the killers, who must eliminate him as a witness.

While lying low, Stick finds himself in the right place at the right time when he helps a wealthy eccentric named Barry (George Segal), get into his locked car. Hired as a driver, he now has a comfortable home with a stable job, and tries to make up for lost time with Katie, his teen-age daughter. He also finds a new flame in Kyle (Candice Bergen), a financial consultant who acts as a business adviser for Barry, who must decide if a relationship with Stick is worth it.

Stick confronts Chucky to demand the money owed to his murdered friend, wanting to use the money to start a new life. Chucky refuses, and after being pressured by his voodoo obsessed cartel boss, Nestor (Castulo Guerra), to eliminate Stick, Chucky sends Moke and some other hitmen after the ex-con. Nestor has Stick's daughter kidnapped to force him out of hiding.

Nestor, fed-up with Chucky's bumbling, hires Moke to kill him. Stick confronts the two on the balcony of Chucky's high rise apartment before Moke can shoot Chucky, and Moke taunts Stick to try and get to him before he can pull a pistol from his belt. Chucky surprises Moke, pushing both men over the balcony railing. Chucky falls to his death, but Moke manages to grab onto a lower beam. Moke asks for help, but Stick mocks him as Moke falls to his death, shooting his gun at Stick on the way down.

Stick goes to Nestor's home, and methodically eliminates all of Nestor's henchmen, before confronting Nestor himself. After Stick shoots up the bar area around him, a terrified Nestor gives up, and agrees to leave Stick and his daughter alone in exchange for his own life. After rescuing his daughter, Stick calls Kyle on a mobile phone and arranges for the two lovers to meet in the median of a highway, where they embrace.



Original Book[edit]

The original novel Stick was published in 1983, although the character of Stick had appeared in Leonard's Swag. The book sold well and, along with the publication of La Brava, and helped revive interest in Leonard's career, particularly when it was announced Burt Reynolds would make a film of it.[3]

Reviewing the book, the New York Times wrote "when Mr. Leonard is observing, satirizing, plotting, working up suspense, thickening the air with menace, discharging it in lightning flashes of violence, exposing the black holes behind the parts people play - when he tends to business, that is, he gives us as much serious fun per word as anyone around."[4]

Leonard expressed interest in writing more books with the character of Stick because he "is so unpredictable that I can probably get a lot more mileage out of him."[5]


"I wanted to make that movie as soon as I read the book," said Reynolds. "I respected Leonard's work. I felt I knew that Florida way of life, having been raised in the state. And I was that guy!"[6]

Leonard was paid $350,000 to write a screenplay.[3]


Filming took place in Florida in October 1983.

George Segal said he liked working on the film. "If you had ever asked me if I’d ever be in a Burt Reynolds movie, I would’ve said, “There’s no way. No chance.” I don’t know how that happened. Oh, I think he saw A Touch Of Class and wanted me. Whatever it was, I had a great time down in Florida. He was a wonderful director, and he made it so nice for the actors. It’s so nice to have an actor or an ex-actor directing you, because they get it, you know?"[7]

Famed stuntman Dar Robinson played the albino hit-man, Moke. His character's death scene, falling from the side of a building while firing a gun, uses Robinson's invention, a decelerator, so cameras could film from above without a visible airbag below (a scattering crowd of people below can also be seen in this shot).[citation needed] This was Robinson's first and last acting break (as opposed to pure stunt work).[citation needed] In 1986 he died in an off-set motorcycle accident.[citation needed]


Reynolds recalled "I turned in my cut of the picture and truly thought I had made a good film. Word got back to me quickly that the people in the Black Tower [Universal's head office] wanted a few changes."[6]

He later reflected, "It was one of those usual Universal Studio stories: A director goes and makes a movie and thinks it's wonderful. I went tripping down to Florida to relax, and I get a call from (MCA president) Sid Sheinberg saying he hated the movie. I said, 'So what? I'm sorry you don't feel good about it, but I tried.' He said, 'You don't understand; we're going to recut it, rescore it and reshoot it.' And they did."[8]

The studio pulled the movie from its release schedule and asked Reynolds to reshoot the second half of the film. A new writer was brought in along with a subplot involving his character reuniting with his daughter post-prison. Reynolds says his agent advised him to go along with the changes:

I gave up on the film. I didn't fight them. I let them get the best of me...Leonard saw the film the day he was interviewed for a Newsweek cover and told them he hated it. After his comment, every critic attacked the film and he wouldn't talk to me. When I reshot the film, I was just going through the motions. I'm not proud of what I did, but I take responsibility for my actions. All I can say--and this is not in way of a defense--is if you liked the first part of 'Stick,' that's what I was trying to achieve throughout.[6]

"I didn't say anything at the time," he later added. "I decided to keep my mouth shut and swallow hard. But it was devastating. I didn't want to direct for another four years."[8]


Stick received negative reviews from critics. Despite opening at No. 1 in its first weekend, the film was a box office flop, grossing just $8.5 million when compared to its $22 million budget.


Gene Siskel wrote "What director Reynolds and actor Reynolds have done to "Stick" is inexcusable. They've made it part burlesque and part conventional chase picture. Actor Reynolds' portrayal of Stick, a gritty ex-con out to avenge a friend's murder, is not much different from his good-old-boy persona in the "Cannonball Run" films."[9]

Elmore Leonard Reaction[edit]

Leonard later said Reynolds "just didn't do it right at all..."[10] "I didn't recognise my screenplay at all in that movie. They even put another writer on it to add more action... Burt had done Sharky's Machine and Gator and I thought he would be good as Stick. But he needed a good director. Directing it himself he just played Burt Reynolds."[11]

"It's very, very theatrical," Leonard added. "I do everything in my power to make my writing not look like writing, and when it appears on the screen you see all these actors acting all over the place." The movie's advertising slogan was: "The only thing he couldn't do was stick to the rules." Leonard hung up a poster in his den with the word "rules" covered by a piece of paper on which was written the word "script".[3]

"The movie isn't anything like the book," he said. "The plot was taken out. In place of the scam are machine guns." [12]

Leonard compared it with the film made of 52 Pick Up. "One thing I like a lot [about that film] is the pacing -- the picture begins immediately, and from there it moves. The dialogue doesn't wait for a reaction, it's almost throwaway, with the exception that you can hear it clearly. In Stick, Burt Reynolds gave you a beat or two after every line so you could react to it, like it was a comedy. It ruined the rhythm."[13]

Proposed TV series[edit]

In 1988 NBC had a TV spin off of the novel in development. However no series resulted.[14]


  1. ^ "Stick". Box Office Mojo. 
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 26, 1985). "SCREEN: 'STICK,' WITH BURT REYNOLDS". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b c ELMORE LEONARD'S ROGUES' GALLERY Yagoda, Ben. New York Times 30 Dec 1984: A.20.
  4. ^ VILLAINS HAVE THE FUN George Stade New York Times 6 Mar 1983: A.11.
  5. ^ NOVELIST'S BAD GUYS HAVE HIM RIDING HIGH Stasio, Marilyn. Philadelphia Inquirer 15 Dec 1983: C.1.
  6. ^ a b c CRAIG MODDERNO "BURT REYNOLDS IS THE COMEBACK KID", Los Angeles Times 4 Jan 1987
  7. ^ Harris, Will (23 September 2013). "George Segal on learning how to bet from Robert Altman, fathering Denzel Washington, and more". AV Club. 
  8. ^ a b Burt is back and he's fighting mad: [FINAL Edition] The Gazette31 Mar 1987: A9.
  9. ^ REYNOLDS AND CREW 'STICK'S IT TO US, AGAIN Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune 26 Apr 1985: E.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  13. ^ AUTHOR SATISFIED WITH SCREENPLAY ADAPTATION: [SUN-SENTINEL Edition] Kelley, Bill. Sun Sentinel7 Nov 1986: 3.

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