Deliverance (1972)

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Adapted from James Dickey's popular novel, John Boorman's 1972 movie recounts the grueling psychological and physical journey taken by four city slickers down a river in the backwoods of Georgia. At the behest of Iron John-esque Lewis (Burt Reynolds), the less adventuresome Ed (Jon Voight), Bobby (Ned Beatty), and Drew (Ronny Cox) agree to canoe down an uncharted section of the river before a dam project ruins the region. After warnings from the grimy, impoverished locals, and Drew's tuneful yet ominous "Dueling Banjos" encounter with a mute inbred boy, the four men embark on their trip, exulting in the beauty of nature and the initial thrill of the rapids. The next day, however, things begin to take a turn for the worse when Bobby and Ed decide to rest on shore after becoming separated from Lewis and Drew. Two rifle-wielding mountain men (Bill McKinney and Herbert "Cowboy" Coward) emerge from the woods, tying up Ed while one of them rapes Bobby and makes him "squeal like a pig." Lewis and Drew rescue them, but the attack irrevocably changes the tenor of the journey. As the river gets rougher and rougher, the men come to nightmarish grips with what it means to survive outside the safety net of "civilization." ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
Rating:
R
Genre:
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Warner Bros.

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Cast

Burt Reynolds
as Lewis Medlock
Ed O'Neill
as Highway Patrolman (uncredited)
Jon Voight
as Ed Gentry
Ned Beatty
as Bobby Trippe AKA Chubby
Bill McKinney
as Mountain Man
Ronny Cox
as Drew Ballinger
Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward
as Toothless Man
James Dickey
as Sheriff
Macon McCalman
as Deputy Queen
Charley Boorman
as Ed's Boy
Seamon Glass
as First Griner
Belinda Beatty
as Martha Gentry
John Fowler
as Doctor
Herbert Coward
as Toothless Man
Lewis Crone
as First Deputy
Randall Deal
as Second Griner
Ken Keener
as 2nd Deputy
Johnny Popwell Sr.
as Ambulance Driver
Ed Ramey
as Old Man
Louise Coldren
as Mrs. Biddiford
Pete Ware
as Taxi Driver
Hoyt J. Pollard
as Boy at Gas Station
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News & Interviews for Deliverance

Critic Reviews for Deliverance

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (6)

Each of the four lead performances is exceptional, none more so than Burt Reynolds' beefy, supercilious Lewis.

Full Review… | August 23, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

John Boorman's 1972 film of the James Dickey novel has a beautiful visual style that balances the film's machismo message.

Full Review… | September 18, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It's the stuff of which slapdash oaters and crime programmers are made but the obvious ambitions of Deliverance are supposed to be on a higher plane.

Full Review… | September 18, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

It's a haunting, nightmarish vision.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A fantasy about violence, not a realistic consideration of it.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

So many of Dickey's lumpy narrative ideas remain in his screenplay that John Boorman's screen version becomes a lot less interesting than it has any right to be.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Deliverance

½

This thriller concerns the exploits of four good old Southern boys trekking down a huge, thrashing river. Set in a very incestuous, back-hoe section of Georgia, the film becomes unsettling as soon as they venture into a small town in search for drivers. The infamous dueling banjo/guitar scene occurs right away, putting it in the forefront of your mind. In this perturbing setting the characters move around easily, stretching out their legs and hamming it up with one another. Though it's masked by the sexual assault and nature vs. man narrative the real theme of the film is the state of manliness and its cousin, machismo. Personified beefcake Burt Reynolds, provides the perspective of pure manliness in the character of Lewis: he hunts and fishes with a crossbow, sleeps under a ramshackle homemade tent, sloughs through mansplaining monologues about his intrepid wanderings in the wilderness, and revels in his absurd testosterone fueled opinions on manhood. The other three are there to watch him boast and bray, themselves trying to find their manliness amongst the rushing rapids of the river. The story concerns the four men, but it's really the story of Ed (Voigt), who fails to live up to Lewis' expectations: he can't hunt, can't protect himself and Bobby (Beatty), doesn't argue with Louis, and can't save Drew (Cox) from the river's wrath. Near the end of the film he is tasked with defending them and this time he succeeds, to his detriment. Everything serves as a metaphor in this film, including, unfortunately, the infamous piggy scene. Beatty is the only one of the four to eschew traditional roles of masculinity, and so he is the one who is victimized. Near the end of the film we think that this film has been about hillbillies threatening four men on the river, and when the second murder occurs it seems obvious that everything has been righted for our heroes. In fact, it serves as another metaphor, which shows that relying on animalism for decision-making incurs violent, and deadly, repercussions. The ending of the film dragged far too long, as this message is waylaid in order for guilt to be shifted between the remaining members of the troupe, belying the point of the rest of the film. Otherwise this was a thoughtfully crafted film about the role of manhood and how it denigrates men, making them murderous brutes.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Four friends explore the whitewater rapids of country backwoods, but their fishing trip turns tragic when one of their members is sexually assaulted. In what could be a cliche horror/slasher film, Deliverance explores themes of civilization and ethical dilemmas. The scenes between the backwoods, redneck natives and the cultured, civilized explorers take on a unique significance because we're meant to question the characterizations with which we approach these people. Are the civilized really that civilized? Does one have to respond to violence with violence in a violent context? Strong performances by Jon Voight, whose character acts as a kind of moral center to the film (the film is - in some ways - a battle for Ed's soul), and Burt Reynolds, the adaptable tough guy, carry the film. Overall, this is a classic for good reason, a film that takes serious issues with the gravity they deserve.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

"Sometimes you have to lose yourself 'fore you can find anything." Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it's turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they'll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.

REVIEW
One of the most famous works made by John Boorman, Deliverance is also one of the most momentous movies shot in the seventies. Its reputation comes from the fact that the director chose to take the opposite view of how nature was commonly perceived in American cinema. Indeed, many films showed a positive view of it and showcased it as a happy refuge where man could find relief and strength from a stressful civilization. In a way, this is the goal that the four main protagonists in Boorman's film indirectly try to reach. They decide to go down the river in a canoe to go back to their roots and to take advantage of a rural place that is bound to be swallowed up by a dam. At first, Boorman seems to be on their side. The film depicts numerous shots of a gorgeous river and imposing landscapes. Details reinforced by a slow, contemplative rhythm and a discreet editing. Moreover, Drew (Ronny Cox) tries to communicate with a muted peasant through music. But little by little, Boorman reveals to the audience that elements of these beautiful landscapes make nature dangerous and hostile to the four adventurers. One can note down that before the apparition of the two silly peasants, Lewis (Burt Reynolds) had animal instincts in him. After the killing of one of the two men, he chooses to bury the corpse and not to call the police. From this watershed onwards, Boorman manages to create an intense tension that won't subside. On the contrary, it will increase with the other misadventures endured by the four men. None of them will be spared and all of them will keep physical or moral scars from this sad trek. The message conveyed by the filmmaker is clear: man must accept society and his return to nature can only damage his personality. A must see film.

Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

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