Plot: What’s it about?
Red Stovall (Clint Eastwood) has seen some hard times, including a lot of troubles he has brought upon himself. After a storm demolishes his sister’s farmland, she decides to head out and seek out a new destination. While the others venture to California, Red has chosen to travel to Nashville instead. He has always dreamed of being a famous country music star, so why not go to the place where it all happens. His life has been a string of playing in low end bars and other joints, but now a door has opened to him. He has been invited to play at the Grand Ole Opry, the one place all country music singers dream of. Red’s nephew Whit (Kyle Eastwood) asks if he can ride along, since he also has aspirations of stardom at some point. It seems like fate has smiled on Red at last, but his wild past has taken its toll. He is getting old these days, still indulges in the booze and women, and is stricken with health problems. As his clock ticks down to his end, Red charges forward to give one last push at seeing his dreams come true. Whit has a lot on his plate too, as he must keep Red focused and out of trouble. Red wants to make it to Nashville, but there is no money for the trip and it will be a miracle if the two arrive. But can Whit keep Red on track and get him to Nashville, or will this be another broken dream?
This is said to be one of Clint Eastwood’s favorites of the films he has made, but I didn’t find it to be so impressive. I don’t care too much for country music, which is the heart of this film at times and is featured throughout. As I dislike country music stars, it was hard to connect with Eastwood’s character and that lessened the experience. If you’re a big country music fan, perhaps that will add a lot to the movie, but for me, it was a source of detraction. Eastwood turns in a solid dramatic effort in Honkytonk Man, while his young son Kyle is also enjoyable. But like I said, I couldn’t relate to his drunken, obsessed country music character and while the performance was good, it wasn’t good enough to overcome that obstacle. The storyline is basic stuff, the tale of a man with a checkered past trying to put his life back together and make one last run at his dreams. That premise provides enough runway to get the film off the ground, but it is so soaked in country music, you have to like the music to get into the experience. Some moments are great, such as the various ways Eastwood gets money en route to Nashville, but on the whole, I found this to be a bland, mediocre film at best. Even for fans of Eastwood, this one is a hard sell. But if you’re a diehard Eastwood fanatic, then Honkytonk Man is worth a rental.
As I said have before, outside of the Dirty Harry movies and his westerns, Clint Eastwood has never struck the right chords with me. I have enjoyed numerous films he’s starred in, but his personal presence has never impressed me much. But even so, I can recognize his skills on screen and wouldn’t sell him short as a performer. His talents as an actor and director are immense, though he often chooses poor projects to get behind. Such was the case with Honkytonk Man, which seems like an excuse to put together a country music soundtrack, which happens to feature some of Eastwood’s own compositions. I found his work here to be good as an actor, but I wasn’t able to connect with his character. This limited my interest in the movie of course, but I can still tell his effort is noble. As a director, Eastwood lets this one go a little and allows thin stretches to come across, which slows down the film quite a lot. I felt like the material was too thin to stretch to well over two hours, so perhaps a ninety minute version would have been better. Other films with Eastwood include The Dead Pool, A Fistful of Dollars, White Hunter Black Heat, Dirty Harry, High Plans Drifter, and In the Line of Fire. The cast also includes John McIntire (Rooster Cogburn, Rough Night in Jericho), Alexa Kenin (Pretty in Pink, A Perfect Match), and Verna Bloom (The Last Temptation of Christ, Animal House).
Video: How does it look?
Honkytonk Man is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As with most of Warner’s Eastwood releases, this one looks quite good and while some light flaws arise, no serious problems surface. The only real trouble comes in a few sequences, in which softness is evident and the print often has numerous nicks & debris. But in most scenes, sharpness is impressive and the print is usually clean as well. I found colors to be bright and natural in scope, with some slight muting to set the tone at times. No hiccups in terms of contrast either, as black levels are smooth and well balanced at all times. I would say this is one heck of a presentation from Warner, who have given this film its best home video treatment.
Audio: How does it sound?
A new Dolby Digital 5.1 option is found here, which kicks off the film with a dynamic storm sequence. After the opening scene however, the audio calms back down and settles into a basic, though effective presentation. The surrounds pick up a few more times throughout the movie, but for the most part, the audio is anchored in the front channels. This is not a problem however, as the material always sound good and shows no real flaws. Whenever the surrounds come to life, the audio is impressive and in the more reserved scenes, the film has a natural atmosphere. So in other words, this is a skilled and effective remix. The dialogue is also clean and never suffers, so I have no real complaints to lodge here. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Thai, so most everyone should be covered.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a talent file on Eastwood, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.