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Action and Morality Intertwine in Southern Tale

White Lightning


Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Year Released: 1973, 2023 Blu-ray Kino Lorber
Runtime: 1h 41m
Director(s): Joseph Sargent
Writer(s): William W. Norton
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Jennifer Billingsley, Bo Hopkins, Matt Clark, Louise Latham, Diane Ladd, R.G. Armstrong, Dabbs Greer, John Steadman
Where To Watch: available November 21, 2023; pre-order here, or

RAVING REVIEW: Head into the heart of Arkansas with WHITE LIGHTNING, a story that mixes moonshine, vendettas, and moral intricacies into a compelling narrative. In his portrayal of Bobby "Gator" McKlusky, Burt Reynolds pulls us into a personal crusade ignited by tragedy. Gator's path to unraveling his brother Donny's mysterious demise, linked to the villainous Sheriff JC Connors—a role Ned Beatty infuses with a disturbingly sinister aura—leads us through a series of ethical twists and action-packed turns—the heart-pumping prequel to the film GATOR.

Director Joseph Sargent masterfully captures the unique essence of the day in the Southern United States, painting a vivid picture with authentic Southern dialects, rustic scenery, and a genuine sense of place that turns the setting into something more than just a backdrop for the film.

The movie revs up as Gator explores the shadowy world of moonshine, taking the wheel for Roy Boone, a character given life by Bo Hopkins. This journey isn't a clear-cut battle of good versus evil; it's an exploration of moral ambiguity, where the choices between right and wrong are as murky as the landscapes of Arkansas.

At the core of WHITE LIGHTNING are its pulse-pounding car chases, showcasing Hal Needham's expertise in stunt coordination. These scenes are more than mere spectacle; they are narrative linchpins reflecting Gator's internal conflict and relentless pursuit.

While these sequences keep you on the edge of your seat, there are moments where they drift slightly off the carefully crafted course set by Sargent, hinting at untapped potential for even more gripping action. This is something that the sequel tackles even more effectively, even though it lacks in some other areas.

The film's supporting actors, including Hopkins, add layers to the narrative. Their interactions, filled with tension and unspoken alliances, enrich the storyline, raising the film above a simple revenge plot.

Despite its many strengths, WHITE LIGHTNING isn't without its imperfections. The plot sometimes navigates familiar waters of this genre film style, and the film's pacing occasionally hits rough patches. Yet, these narrative hiccups are offset by the film's immersive, atmospheric backdrop, pulling you into an alien and authentic world.

The performances of Reynolds and Beatty are standout elements, providing depth and complexity to their characters. This blend results in a cinematic experience that offers a solid and entertaining journey for both genre enthusiasts and the casual movie-goer.

In summary, WHITE LIGHTNING is a homage to the enduring charm of Southern thrillers. It weaves a tale where moral boundaries are fuzzy, and justice is deeply personal. While it may not revolutionize the genre, it leaves a lasting impression, earning accolades for its authentic depiction of the South and its captivating narrative. This film is a testament to the power of storytelling, where the most engaging tales drive straight into the complexity of the human condition. Whether you're a fan of adrenaline-fueled car chases, multi-dimensional characters, or a good old-fashioned revenge story, WHITE LIGHTNING delivers a memorable ride.

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[photo courtesy of KINO LORBER]

Chris Jones
Entertainment Editor

Chris Jones is the Mail Entertainment Editor covering Movies and Television topics. He is from Washington, Illinois, and is the owner, writer, and editor of Overly Honest Reviews.