EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE. The plot idea is so absurd that it’s intriguing

The whole exudes a pleasant, somewhat nostalgic atmosphere; in the frame, we witness America of the seventies, and not for a moment does one get the impression that the creators wanted to do something...


17 January 2024

At the end of the 1970s, Clint Eastwood was already one of the biggest stars in cinema. Having captured the hearts of audiences with performances both in front of and behind the camera in films set in the Wild West (including the excellent Sergio Leone’s dollar trilogy) and later relentlessly combating crime as the tough “Dirty” Harry Callahan, he sought new challenges for his career. He decided to try his hand at comedy. Although this wasn’t Eastwood’s first comedic performance, as he had previously appeared in films like “Every Which Way But Loose” or the musical “Paint Your Wagon” alongside Dolly Parton and Lee Marvin, his role as Philo Beddoe is an interesting exception in the rich repertoire of this X-factor legend.

The plot idea seems so absurd that it becomes intriguing. Here, we have the main character (Eastwood), a former truck driver who makes a living participating in fistfights organized in shady dive bars and similar places. Throughout, he is supported by his best buddy and confidant, the orangutan Clyde. True, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But the fun is fantastic!

The film takes us to sunny California, exploring the long and wide bars scattered like states, filled with country music, meeting various eccentric characters whom Clint’s character confronts. Along the way, he steps on the toes of a motorcycle gang called the “Black Widows from Pacoima” and finds love in the form of the singer Lynn, played by Eastwood’s real-life partner at the time, Sondra Locke. There is no clear main plot, brilliant screenplay, or surprising plot twists here; the title is more a collection of gags and scenes glued together. However, it guarantees excellent entertainment, albeit more on the side of less demanding genres. The main attraction is, of course, Clyde and his antics with Philo. Eastwood jokingly mentioned that the animal was one of the best actors he worked with, even though it didn’t like doubles. Recognizable faces on screen include Beverly D’Angelo, later known as Mrs. Griswold, and Geoffrey Lewis as the main character’s friend.

The whole film exudes a pleasant, somewhat nostalgic atmosphere, capturing America in the 1970s, and there is never a moment where it feels like the creators wanted to do more than just a light-hearted comedy. Even if the characters encounter a serious problem, they quickly find a solution, usually using their fists. The motorcycle gang is portrayed as a bunch of clueless losers convinced of their power. While the film deviates from Eastwood’s other productions, his role itself is not fundamentally different from the usual tough guy he portrays – a stoic character with a piercing gaze. However, in this case, every scene is stolen by the orangutan. Eastwood truly had to make an effort not to be overshadowed by Clyde.

Written by Jeremy Joe Kronsberg, the script was rejected by most studios. It accidentally landed in Eastwood’s hands, who liked it, despite colleagues advising against making this film. The actor, unsure about appearing in a comedy, reportedly sought the opinion of Burt Reynolds, who was familiar with lighter repertoires. In the end, producing the film turned out to be a good decision. While critics weren’t overly enthusiastic, audiences flocked to theaters, and to this day, “Every Which Way But Loose” ranks high among Eastwood’s films in terms of revenue.

The success led to a sequel just two years later, titled “Any Which Way You Can.” The continuation is essentially more of the same, and if someone enjoyed the original, they can comfortably reach for it. I had a great time with both parts because the laid-back Eastwood in the company of the charming orangutan guarantees that it’s impossible to be bored during the screening. Give Philo’s adventures a chance, if only to see one of the greatest tough guys in cinema in an atypical role.



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