Entertainment » Movies

Semi-Tough

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jan 21, 2020
Semi-Tough

It's really funny reading about the original reactions to Michael Ritchie's 1977 rom-com sports spoof "Semi-Tough." A lot of critics derided it for not directly railing against the machismo and misogyny that cut through the story, but that kind of strikes me as an easy criticism. Ritchie was the kind of director that filled his films with texture, whether it's by character or setting, and had a knack for mining something worthwhile out of mucky subjects. This is another great example of his craft. He's able to spoof the misguidedness of the self-help craze of the 1970s and what a popular social institution like professional football breeds without diluting the film's nastiness.

From what I can see, this is the first time Ritchie's "Semi-Tough" is available on Blu-ray, and it's a true pleasure to see a new 2K master that gracefully preserves it. Sure, there are nicks and bumps as if you were watching a 35mm print of the film on television, but that only adds to the texture. If digital tools were used to take out the grit of the film, I'm not sure it'd be the same viewing experience. And even though there aren't many special features to speak for, this is a must-own for fans of Ritchie, Burt Reynolds, and Kris Kristofferson.

Billy Clyde Puckett (Reynolds) and Marvin "Shake" Tiller (Kristofferson) are best friends and professional football players who play, live and woo women together. Their third roommate is Barbara Jean Bookman (Jill Clayburgh), the daughter of the owner of the football team they play for. After Shake finds newfound confidence from a self-help organization called B.E.A.T., Barbara and he plan to marry. But when Barbara Jean herself tries the same conditioning program, it goes terribly and she worries that her failure will make Shake leave her at the altar. On the other side, Billy Clyde harbors feelings for Barbara Jean and is looking for the opportune time to sweep her off her feet.

Reynolds and his many piggish charms really shine here. As an actor, he was kind of the king of giving internal life to roles that didn't really call for it. That observation is clear here, as his understated performance as Billy Clyde mixes his physical attractiveness with an attuned sense of self. When he goes after Barbara Jean, we actually feel sympathy for him, as we spend a lot of the film watching him silently flail because the woman he loves may be slipping away. But in classic Reynolds fashion, the big emotional revelation is heightened because of his sense of comedic timing.

Another thing people derided the film for was leaning too heavily on professional football overtaking stabs at the self-help industry. To this writer, professional football is another institution that people willingly give themselves over to. An almost religious organization in its emotional and physical influence in its players. Flip-flopping between B.E.A.T. and professional football makes the film work even better, as it provides depth to how both institutions shape and form the male ID to its will. But hey, this is also a bawdy rom-com about playing football and having sex with everything you can. A damn fine one at that, too. Special features include:

• Theatrical Trailer

"Semi-Tough"
Kino Lorber Blu-ray
$29.95
https://www.klstudioclassics.com/product/view/id/6624

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