Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

The Reivers (1969)

by  |  November 19th, 2011  |  Comedy

Boon Hoggenbeck: Sometimes you have to say goodbye to the things you know and hello to the things you don’t!

For all you McQueen fans out there, I’d be willing to bet there’s one classic film of his you’re not as familiar with. It’s a comic coming of age story based on a Faulkner short story entitled:

The Reivers

I really love this film, and while it is comic, it’s also got the dramatic dark undertow of the times in the south, commenting on racism and ignorance and all that jazz.

Basically, a young boy’s grandfather gets a new car, one of the first available for that time period in Mississippi. When his folks go away, the plantation handyman, Boon, played by McQueen, talks the boy into taking the car out on an adventure.

And an adventure they have, from horse races to whore houses to the jail house, it’s a rollicking good time and not without its dramatic high points.

And the boy learns, in the end, about growing up and being a man. I know there’s many a story like this these days, but rarely has one been done as well as this.

And rarely will you see Steve McQueen act like this – he’s the opposite of most of his taciturn tough guys in every other film – Here the King of Cool is a talkative, gregarious con man with charm and wit and, dare I say, something of a loser?

Yep, he plays a loser and does it with grace. The Reivers has a real humor and identity and adventure, but it never talks down to its audience, it’s not a family film, and McQueen has never been this open and vulnerable. Folks forget he was more than a movie star, he was a Method trained actor from New York who knew how to handle text and character and handle it well.

Mostly I love The Reivers because it captures that moment in boyhood where we see the dark adult things and are half afraid we’re not ready for them and half worried we are . . . it captures the confusion of it perfectly.

Add to the mix, a joyous performance by Rupert Crosse as Boon’s partner in mischief and his chief foil, a sense of time and place that feels real and yet loving at the same time, and great direction all around.

And again, McQueen has never been better.

So check out The Reivers as soon as you can. I think you’ll dig it.


Josh James is a screenwriter and playwright currently based in New York City, author of the original screenplays A Black Heart (Bunce Media & Captivate Entertainment) A Natural High (Videe This Inc) and The Jones Party (Barking Dog Productions). Josh also adapted Peter Biskind’s book Down & Dirty Pictures into a screenplay, wrote the thriller Block Island for Adler Gray Productions and a production polish on LLeju’s Road Kill, directed by John Stockwell. He is the author of many plays that have been produced all over New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, London and all across the United States.

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