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 min.
Language English
Budget $22 million
Box office $8,489,518[1]

Stick is a 1985 American crime film directed by and starring Burt Reynolds, based on the novel of the same name by Elmore Leonard.[2]


Ernest "Stick" Stickley, a former car thief, has just been released from prison. He meets up with an old friend, Rainy, whose "quick stop" near the Florida Everglades before they go home is an illegal drug deal that goes sour. With his friend dead, Stick needs to 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 get into his locked car. Hired as a driver, he 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, a financial consultant who acts as a business adviser for Barry, who must decide what of Stick can be salvaged.

Before he can move on, however, Stick confronts drug dealer Chucky to demand the money owed to his murdered friend. Chucky refuses and sends albino hit-man Moke after the ex-con. Stick can't get on with his new life without cleaning up old business first. He becomes the target of Moke as well as the cartel that employs Chucky, led by the voodoo-obsessed Nestor.

A three-way confrontation on a high-rise balcony ends in Chucky's and Moke's deaths. Stick must then rely on his quick wit and fists to deal with his final enemy, Nestor, who has kidnapped Stick's daughter.



"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!"[3]

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."[3]

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.[3]

"It's very very theatrical," complained Leonard of the film. "I do everything in my power to make my writing not look like writing, and when it appears on screen you see these actors acting all over the place."[4]


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.

Leonard later said Reynolds "just didn't do it right at all..."[5] "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."[6]


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