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One of the key films of the 1970s, John Boorman's Deliverance is a nightmarish adaptation of poet-novelist James Dickey's book about various kinds of survival in modern America. The story concerns four Atlanta businessmen of various male stripe: Jon Voight's character is a reflective, civilized fellow, Burt Reynolds plays a strapping hunter-gatherer in urban clothes, Ned Beatty is a sweaty, weak-willed boy-man, and Ronny Cox essays a spirited, neighborly type. Together they decide to answer the ancient call of men testing themselves against the elements and set out on a treacherous ride on the rapids of an Appalachian river. What they don't understand until it is too late is that they have ventured into Dickey's variation on the American underbelly, a wild, lawless, dangerous (and dangerously inbred) place isolated from the gloss of the late 20th century. In short order, the four men dig deep into their own suppressed primitiveness, defending themselves against armed cretins, facing the shock of real death on their carefully planned, death-defying adventure, and then squarely facing the suspicions of authority over their concealed actions. Boorman, a master teller of stories about individuals on peculiarly mythical journeys, does a terrifying and beautiful job of revealing the complexity of private and collective character--the way one can never be the same after glimpsing the sharp-clawed survivor in one's soul. --Tom Keogh
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Even four decades after its debut, the film is still acclaimed as one of the most influential movies of all time. Not only has the film been preserved by the Library of Congress, Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie a "Certified Fresh" rating of 94%; it also rests on `The New York Times' list of "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made." "Deliverance" has gained notoriety for its musical score as well, namely for the song "Dueling Banjos" which earned a Grammy in 1974. For me, "Deliverance" is a must-see film for everyone (over the age of 18); it is not one I imagine many will regularly rewatch, but it holds lasting symbolism and provokes long-term thought on the validity of the assumptions we make on a daily basis.
STARRING roles include: Jon Voight as Ed Gentry, Burt Reynolds as Lewis Medlock, Ronny Cox as Drew Ballinger, Ned Beatty as Bobby Trippe, Billy Redden as banjo-boy/Lonnie, James Dickey as Sheriff Bullard, Bill McKinney as Mountain Man, Charlie Boorman as Ed's Boy, Herbert `Cowboy' Coward as Toothless Man, and Macon McCalman as Arthur Queen.
SPECIAL FEATURES of the "Deliverance Deluxe Edition" DVD: Commentary by director John Boorman; Four-part 35th anniversary retrospective with the film's stars, director John Boorman, and others; Vintage featurette: "The Dangerous World of Deliverance;" and "Deliverance" theatrical trailer.
SUMMARY: Ed Gentry, Bobby Trippe, Lewis Medlock, and Drew Ballinger constitute a crew of Georgia businessmen who decide to take a vacation canoeing on the Cahulawassee River. While the flooded river is set in the remote Georgian north, newbie-canoers Drew and Bobby trust Lewis's wilderness expertise to make the trip both peaceful and enjoyable.
Before setting out, the group gains familiarity with the sort of backwoods locals who inhabit the area. Bobby's attitude toward the `hillbillies' serves to represent the divide between the businessmen and what he regards as `inferior specimen.' Drew manages to bond with a young native boy during a jam-session of "Dueling Banjos;" but the boy later exposes his undeveloped social skills, casting a foreboding aura as the business set out on the river.
During their second day on the river, Bobby and Ed become separated from Lewis and Drew. With the help of their shotguns, two hillbillies apprehend Ed and Bobby for supposedly exposing their moonshining business. As punishment, they sentence Bobby to a violent rape--symbolizing the animalistic nature of the locals. [The line "Squeal like a Pig" is absent from the original script, but was presumably adapted in lieu of the highly crude language intended for the scene as a means to make the film more TV-friendly.] Just as the men finish with Bobby, Drew and Lewis come to the rescue; Lewis shoots one of the hillbillies while the other one escapes. In the aftermath of this incident, Lewis warns against reporting to the police on the grounds that, given the locals seem to all be somehow related, no justice would come of it. They instead bury the dead hillbilly and hope that, for fear of exposing his own involvement in the rape, the other hillbilly with keep quiet.
Eager to return home, the canoeists make a hasty mistake on the river which leads them into a stretch of rapids. Drew is shot from the overlooking bluffs, presumably by the escaped hillbilly, causing him to fall from his canoe and produce a wreck which destroys the boats and breaks Lewis's leg. Bobby, Ed, and Lewis manage to make it to the shore. Fearing that the man who shot Drew may still be stalking them, Ed shoots his bow at the first man he sees with a gun, accidentally injuring himself in the process. Ed's conscious weighs on him when Bobby fails to identify the dead man as the escaped hillbilly; they sink the body in the river and try to forget committing murder.
Before reaching Aintry, a town in the course of relocating to dodge the flood, the three remaining businessmen retrieve Drew's body from the river; it is clear that Drew sustained a head wound, but unclear that it was the result of a gunshot. Once in Aintry, Bobby, Ed, and Lewis tell their doctored story to the local sheriff. Given that one of the sheriff's relatives has recently gone missing, he hesitates to lend belief. The men are free to go... for now.