Bare-knuckle boxer Philo Beddoe aims to retire from the game. But when the Mafia kidnap his ex-girlfriend, and force him to take part in the illegal championship of the world, he and orang-utan pal Clyde must set off in their pick-up truck to set things right.
No actor with a career quite as exulted and varied as Clint Eastwood, can, at the same time, boast an aberration as bizarre as his orang-utan years. Chimp-friendly Ronald Reagan may have become president but he never directed Unforgiven. And, while there may have been something perversely pleasurable in the original’s knockabout gusto, did we really need a sequel? The powers that be thought so, and thus we got this, about the dumbest movie Clint Eastwood ever put his name to.
Just counting off the gumbo of ingredients gives you an idea of what kind of madcap thinking was or, indeed, wasn’t going on around here. Again, we have our sturdy, do-the-right-thing kinda hero who happens to be a bare-knuckle boxer, getting by on the dustier side of the tracks. He also owns an orang-utan called Clyde, both cute and memorable, but actually not exactly the point. Although, this does grant us the thinly comic exercise of veteran actress Ruth Gordon, as the cuss-ready Ma Boggs, berating Clyde’s lack of house-manners. The gang of idiot Hell’s Angels are back and, following a mishap involving tar, now have to don wigs. There’s also the re-smouldering of Philo’s lurve for country and western crooner Lyn, cameos from Fats Domino and Ray Charles and a bare-knuckle fight that seems to go on forever, even though the participants have become fast friends. Any which way you can, it seems, was both title and ethos for director Buddy Van Horn. As long as it’s delivered with a quick-grin, yeehaw sensibility that demands they’re only messing about with a camera.
Something the original did actually pull off, as there was a sense of commitment to its own oddity. Now, after Every Which Way But Loose became a big hit, that oddity is being treated like process. The jokes are contrived, where before they eagerly slipped out of the rough-hewn situations. Eastwood, meanwhile, is at his sleepiest, leaving any emoting to Clyde, who proves the only one who manages to get a grip.