At the lifetime-achievement award film festival that movies like this depend upon, one devotee asks Reynolds' why he passed on serious dramatic roles in favor of churning out car-chase movies. The film's first third finds him complaining, moping and mournfully staring at the asses of young women who no longer notice him. Reynolds never appears in full command of his body, and the performance is sometimes painful, not simply because the one-time golden boy has aged but because the role demands that he act as if aging is a betrayal, as if he has nothing to offer the world without his youthful vigor. The film's nadir comes in scenes in which present-day Reynolds -- frail, rasping, but fully alive in the eyes -- shares the screen with footage of his younger self, in his most famous roles. Think Krapp's Last Tape but in the black Trans-Am from Smokey and the Bandit. We see Burt Today crabbing at his younger self about his recklessness. The scenes play something like when a talk-show comic conducts a fake interview with a politician, asking new questions that get spliced into old video.
By the time Rifkin shows us Vic, drunk, straddling the kids' mechanical horse in front of a grocery store and lecturing about how he never should have given up being a stuntman, all I could think was, "But the car-chase movies were better than this."