Bullet Points: Smoke n Lightnin
Have you ever watched an action movie and thought to yourself that it was a fun and exciting film, but it was just missing that something to make it an all-time great? That happened to me the first time I watched the 1995 movie Smoke n Lightnin. I enjoy the hell out this action movie, but there were several things that were holding it back. Luckily for you I happen to have some Bullet Points for Smoke n Lightnin so join me on a journey to an underrated (but slightly, and I mean slightly, flawed) action film. I really hate to nitpick such an entertaining movie, but that is what I get paid to do… on to the Bullet Points!
- Smoke (Kristoffer Ryan Winters) and Lightnin (Christopher Atkins) are two mechanics who are always looking for a good time and for a good way to pick up chicks. When they are forced to work all weekend to fix the car of a diplomat their night has much more in store than they bargained for. Smoke and Lightnin are not aware that the diplomat was killed in order for an underdeveloped bad guy to get very powerful computer chips in a briefcase. The diplomat was able to switch the briefcase and hide it in the car that Smoke and Lightnin are working on. The pair decide to take the car out to the local club dress up in suits and pretend to be secret agents with Smoke going one step further and handcuffing the briefcase to his wrist.
- Lightnin is really interested in Melody (Sabryn Genet) a model who initial wants nothing to do with him or his good friend Smoke. When Melody’s car breaks down she gets a ride from Smoke and Ligtnin only to find the hitman chasing the pair. She takes them to her cousin Heather’s country restaurant, the aptly named Country Restaurant to hide out. Meanwhile, the FBI contacts Smoke and Lightnin to get back the briefcase which just so happens to be booby trapped so they can’t take off the cuffs without the key. As if that wasn’t enough, the briefcase is shock sensitive and any large bump will cause a 6-hour timed bomb to go off. Of course the briefcase gets bumped and the race is on to avoid the killer and to get the key from the FBI to defuse the bomb.
- Along the way we are treated to some surprisingly top notch car action as we get to see some explosions, cars flipping and jumping, and quality chase scenes. Lightnin got his name from being a fast driver and when he steals a cherry Subaru SVX we really get to see his skills shine. One particularly unique chase scene features a large tracked vehicle chasing a Toyota J40 Land Cruiser in the swamps. The tracked vehicle is also the platform for the final showdown between Lightnin and the hitman where Christopher Atkins proves he is a more than an adequate action star. There is also the requisite fight inside the Country Restaurant with the local yokels trying to take down the hitman unsuccessfully. For those of you looking for a little romance in your action film, Lightnin and Melody get real close (if you know what I mean.)
Now doesn’t that sound like an entertaining film? It is, but there are some things that are off and take a few points away from Smoke n Lightnin. The cast is believable and do the best with a pretty straight forward story and the action scenes punch above their weight. I told you earlier that it is slightly flawed, and that is what I mean. I am talking about only a cunt’s hair off from being a 10. I can think of no better place to take a look at the foibles of Smoke n Lightnin then in the Bonus Bullet Points!
- Direction Unknown: When you see a movie with the director credited as Alan Smithee you know there was an issue. Alan Smithee was the pseudonym used for many years when a director did not want to be credited because they did not believe that had creative control over the film. I know Smoke n Lightnin has a few mistakes, but to me it seems like if da Vinci didn’t want to take credit for the Mona Lisa because it is missing eyebrows. However, a director must stand behind their work and if they didn’t believe in it, good on you for standing up for your artistic vision… whoever you are.
- Bummer: B.U.M. Equipment clothing and decals are prominently worn and displayed. While that might be a negative point on its own, B.U.M. Equipment filed for bankruptcy less than a year after the release of Smoke n Lightnin. (Don’t worry, B.U.M. is back, baby!)
- Speaking of Decals and Asses…: The diplomat’s car, and briefcase for that matter, has the Seal of the President of the United States. Just like many of the presidents, it flip-flops (Political Zing!) moving from the front to rear door. The car also has a different front and rear license plate.
- Safari Club: Smoke and Lightnin head to the Safari Club, which has an unbelievably awesome moving Olmec head wall with pyrotechnics included. However, they production must have spent all the money on the wall because they couldn’t afford to hire any people to fill the club. It should be packed with gorgeous women, but there are only around 20 people milling around and some are “dancing.”
- Worst Insult: While pretending to be secret agents, Smoke and Lightnin come to the rescue of Melody from a drunk. The drunk is none too pleased remarking, “I’ve had enough of you two titty babies.”
- Best Coined Phrase: Smoke and Lightnin on the run are referred to as being “Hotter than a pair of Tom Cruise’s underwear.”
- Excitement Stalled: Melody is changing in a bathroom stall and at one point comes out topless… only to have her hands covering her titty babies.
- Wrong! …And Racist?: According to Lightnin, St. Tropez is on the coast of Africa and there are gorillas on the beach.
- Pond Eroticism: The action between Lightnin and Melody in a placid Florida body of water had me worried about the potential for alligators and where all that pond scum could be flowing. But kudos to the actors for giving it their all in a highly erotic scene.
- Cue “Dixie”: When Heather jumps an Oldsmobile Delta 88 over a different pond the only thing I could hear was the Duke Boys’ General Lee car horn.
- Bandit’s Home: Smoke n Lightnin was filmed at the Burt Reynolds Ranch Studios in Florida. Sadly, the studio isn’t operational anymore, but it probably explains why longtime Reynolds’ friend and co-star Alfie Wise plays one of the FBI Agents.