Clint Eastwood is getting on in years. His face is as lined as an old lizard. Flesh flops over his belt.
Yet "In Every Which Way But Loose," motorcycle hoods and slack-jawed cops still constantly challenge his manhood and wind up as hood ornaments for their troubles. This time, Eastwood has traded in his magnum for a Chevy pick-up truck and crime-ridden city streets for a netherworld of highways, honky tonks and trailer parks. But there are still enough bodies smashed - automotive and human - to keep his followers happy.
Eastwood has perfected the snarling tough-guy persona, launched in "Dirty Harry," to the point of self-parody. Here he goes one step further, and "Every Which Way But Loose" is intended as comedy.
Eastwood portrays Philo Beddoe, a professional barroom brawler who sets out to persue skittish country singer Lynn Halsey Taylor (Sondra Locke). Fortunately he had the sense to add affable side-kick Geoffrey Lewis; Ruth Gordon, superb as a foul-mouthed kvetching granny, and a scene-stealing orangutang named Clyde. Otherwise there's not much thaths funny.
Perhaps Eastwood is trying to ape the good-buddy trucker style of fellow macho man Burt Reynolds. But although it's refreshing to see Eastwood lose the big fight (on purpose, natch), not get the girl (she was unworthy anyway) and walk off into the sunset with his orangutang, one misses the taut timing and cliff-hanging tension of previous efforts. Without these elements the plot remains as flat as the treacly country-western score.
One fight scene is aptly filmed in a meat-packing plant with the combatants surrounded by bloody carcasses, but the rest of the fisticuffs are fatuous and predictable with nary a real punch thrown. Still, the film provides the blue-collar thrills Eastwood's fans have come to count on him for. Directed by James Fargo for Eastwood's own Malpaso Company. EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE - Alen, AMC Academy, Annandale, Buckingham , Hampton Mall, Marlow, Roth's Seven Locks, Roth's Tysons Corner, Tenley Circle and Wheaton Plaza.