Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Concrete Cowboys (1979)

          The TV movie Concrete Cowboys is a staple of DVD bargain bins everywhere, and packaging usually suggests that small-screen icon Tom Selleck is the picture’s leading man. Yet Selleck actually costars with good-ol’-boy country singer Jerry Reed, who gained mainstream attention by appearing in several Burt Reynolds movies and then built a respectable acting career. Anyway, Concrete Cowboys was made as the pilot for a proposed detective series, but the show didn’t materialize for another two years. (More on that later.) The movie concerns easygoing drifters J.D. (Reed) and Will (Selleck), who hop a train headed for Hollywood, with only the vaguest notions of what they’ll do for money upon reaching California. When the train passes through Nashville, country-music superfan J.D. insists on stopping for a visit. The boys contact their friend Lonnie (Randy Powell), a Nashville-based PI, and crash at Lonnie’s place while Lonnie travels for work. Thus, when a mousy young woman named Kate (Morgan Fairchild) shows up at Lonnie’s door looking for investigative assistance, the boys pretend to be PIs so they can earn a quick buck. This puts them on the trail of Kate’s missing sister, Carla (also played by Fairchild), a wannabe country singer. Chases, intrigue, and plot twists ensue.
          Yet Concrete Cowboys is less about the mystery at the heart of the narrative and more about the cutesy bickering between the protagonists. Reed plays slick and wired, while Selleck goes for forthright and quiet. Both actors put in valiant efforts, but their energies never coalesce into the wonderful intangible of chemistry. Further slowing the picture’s momentum is the sluggish plot, which relies on such hokey devices as an actress playing dual roles and various characters giving conflicting recollections of the missing girl. Even the main plot hook is a tired cliché—the ambitious starlet willing to sleep with anyone who might help her find success. In its favor, Concrete Cowboys has the novelty of a Nashville setting, complete with cameos by legit country-music stars Roy Acuff, Barbara Mandrell, and Ray Stevens. (Stevens performs one of his signature comic tunes during a nightclub scene.) In the end, though, it’s unsurprising that this pilot did not immediately beget a series. And by the time that finally happened in 1981, Selleck had gotten a show of his own (Magnum, P.I.), so Reed inherited Geoffrey Scott as a costar for the very short run of the Concrete Cowboys weekly show.

Concrete Cowboys: FUNKY

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