A city boy sets out to the country to be the best mechanical bull rider in Texas.
Hard Hat Days and Honky Tonk Nights
Have you ever dreamed of leaving everything you know behind, packing up your belongings, throwing them in your pickup truck to head south, never to look back? Have you ever found yourself fantasizing about being a real life cowboy, showing off your line dancing skills at the hottest honkey tonk bar in all of Texas? Have you ever wanted to work the hard taxing hours of construction labor to stay fit and strong so as to impress all your new hillbilly friends at the bar on the new mechanical bull they just received? ….Well I haven't either, but boy howdy John Travolta sure has, and by golly does he do it in this 1980s somehow hit classic “Urban Cowboy”. If you're into idiotic plots, misogynistic men, loose women, and whole lot of honkey tonk then this movie is for you. But if you're not an inbred southerner slugging down moonshine every hour while beating up your wife, then this is definitely not the movie for you.
We start off with Bud (John Travolta, “Pulp Fiction”) packing up all his things to head to Texas where his uncle Bob has set up a job opportunity doing construction. The job is only to keep Bud afloat with some cash. His real ambitions lie elsewhere: bull riding. More specifically, mechanical bull riding. Yee haw. Welcome to Gilly's, the biggest swill water drinking whole in all of Texas, where the dancing don't stop, and all the necks are red, it's a darn tooting good time for good ol' Bud, and the ladies he encounters. You see, Bud is a man's man, he's a tough cowboy from the city, all the ladies are magnetically attracted to him like mosquitos to sweat, and of course being the gentleman he is, he gives himself to them. What a rip roaring good time. John Travolta's thetan levels must've been through the roof back then. But despite Bud's tomfoolery he finds the love of his life, Sissy (Debra Winger, “Terms of Endearment”). Their relationship begins with a fight, which quickly is forgotten as she becomes enamored with his ability to ride that new gear riddin’ Bull. After a couple more fights, one of which Bud actually hits her in the face, they decide, like all unhealthy relationships, to get married.
The section I’ve laid out happens in the first twenty godforsaken minutes of this movie, and this is a two hour and ten minute movie. The rest of this horribly outdated southern yarn focuses on Bud's and Sissy's relationship revolving around this Gilly's bar, which is somehow the only place anyone in this Texas town goes too. But who wouldn't when there's so much jolly good fun to be had, dosey doeing to the finest folk that a fiddle could folk, enough to make anyone scream, Ahyuah! Bud's main goal is to be the best mechanical bull rider in all of Gilly's. He believes that's the path the big man upstairs has in store for him. He won't let his wife go on it because he's jealous she might become better than him, so he resorts to abuse and misogyny to keep her away, like any good husband, but that's okay with her because she just loves Bud oh so much. Bud increasingly progresses with his riding skills, but he's no match for our antagonist Wes (Scott Glen, “Training Day”), a real bull rider, a mean mugging southerner who's only missing a mouthful of chew. He comes in and shows all of Gilly’s just what a real mechanical bull ride looks like, Bud gets angry as the rest of the crowd gives their toothless praises of this new talent, who turns out is hired at Gilly's to help control and run the industrial cow.
Bud is consumed with jealous rage, which he so politely takes out on Sissy, blaming her for all his shortcomings and not thinking straight like the Podunk that he is. But, as this is an over two hour movie, there's plenty of time for Bud to grow and change, right? Nope, just so long as Wes is a bigger asshole than Bud, that makes him the good guy. Dog gunnit who needs character growth when you're a rootin' tootin' mechanical bull dominating cowboy! Bud and Sissy get into a terrible fight, one that breaks their tight bonds and sends them off the deep end, Bud finds out that Sissy is getting bull riding lessons at Gilly's from none other than his competition Wes. This angers Bud so he gets together with another floozy woman at the bar to make her jealous, he sleeps with this new woman and romanticizes her, all while Sissy does the same with Wes. What a couple of real winners we get to watch for such a bloated run time. Of course as the narrative progresses (I think that's what happens for lack of a better word) further Sissy comes to find out Wes is even worse than Bud and she decides she wants Bud back, because that's how love works; that deep South cheatin' love.
These characters are so unlikable and so dumbfoundingly written that it truly confuses me as to why this movie was made, obviously I'm not the demographic for this genre. I can only handle Travolta line dancing so many times, and “Urban Cowboy” gives you that and then some in gag inducing fashion. The misogyny is absolutely unreal. The way women are portrayed in this movie is offensive and degrading, turning them into the man's plaything telling the viewer that you can treat your partner like dogsh*t, and as long as she loves you she will always come running back. When the Confederate-flag-bearing, gun-totting-republican audience who this was meant for sees it, their only reaction will be, "Damn hell! Them were the good ol' days, I sure do miss those rip roaring golden times of being a real prick." I guess if that's what the director what going for, then he hit the nail on the head. Despite my glaring rage for this movie, the music is quite good, bringing it back the 70s birth of real country tunes, giving us classics like 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia.’ The production design is also quite good and authentic; it's too bad it's brought down by the nonsensical writing and baffling characters, not to mention one of the most meandering stories about this time period. Check out Robert Altman's 'Nashville' if you're looking for a real country music tale, not this hogwash.
The last act really slams the nails into the coffin for this boring offensive piece of trash. Gilly's puts on a competition, a mechanical bull riding competition, one that gives the winner a hefty five grand if they win. This is Bud's calling, this is how Bud can win Sissy back, and this is what Sissy wanted to see all along: her big tough cheating husband taking on the man she's been sleeping with, this will surely bring them back together. Bud becomes obsessed, and with the help of his mentor and uncle Bob’s let's old mechanical bull he conveniently has on his property he trains, hard. Then there is a (I'm not kidding you) Rocky-esque montage sequence of Bud riding the bull until he's an expert, with inspirational tobacco laced jams to guide him along his way. Bud is ready for his ultimate destiny, hard hat days for honky tonk nights, this is why he left his home, this is his dream.
The climax of this film is just horrendous, whatever time has been given to watch this film is wasted, as the top bull riders give it their all to win the big prize, but of course it comes down to Wes and Bud. Not even the sister-lovers of the south could find this sequence enjoyable or intense (or whatever mood the director wanted to capture). Whatever stupidity came before all of this, this final sequence takes the cake. This is what the whole movie has been building towards; not a change of character, not a moment of moral providence, but finding out who is the best bull rider in Gilly's bar. Of course Bud beats Wes by one point, beats Wes up for smacking his wife, because remember only Bud gets to hit his wife (that's the redneck way I reckon). And then Sissy falls back into Bud's arms and they drive off claiming victory. What? Yeah. That's the message this stupid movie portrays: just don't be as big of an a**hole as the next guy and you can get away with all sorts of things, and love always finds a way- it's always forgiving no matter what- women don't care about what happened before, even if you don't change.
What a bunch of boloney, screw this movie.
As I said above, I'm obviously not the demographic for this movie (thank the Lord), but regardless, this is one stupid film. In a way, it fits right up nicely to the trailer trash demographic, which I presume was it’s target audience. I mean, there's literally a scene where Bud buys a double wide trailer for Sissy as a wedding gift. It just doesn't get any trashier...(actually it does because there's still plenty of movie after that).
I sincerely don't understand why this movie was made, or why it has such decent, if not good reviews. It somehow hit the right cords with certain people, probably those who found this in a five dollar bargain bin at Wal-Mart. The story is inane and goes nowhere fast- if a story is what you really call it. There's way too much dancing for my liking, although line dancing fanatics may find these scenes enjoyable. The music is very good, showcasing the rise of the country music scene. That’s one of the few redeeming qualities. The production design is quite good, not exactly where I wouldn't want to reside, but it all looks very authentic. The message and themes are horribly outdated, it's a misogynistic nasty film with terrible moral ambiguity, one that I would never show anyone under the age of 18, yet this has a PG rating. If you're a pig-wrestling, Kid-Rock-loving hillbilly this might just be the best thing to show your little crotch goblins. Overall I obviously did not enjoy this film, and I'm not really sure I can find the appeal factor for anyone to enjoy it. It's just a messily written country yarn with no real point; the characters are unlikable, uninteresting, sleazy and mean, the climax is just plain silly, and the movie as a whole is an endurance test, it just keeps going and going until finally the idiocy comes to an end after a rather boring altercation. I'd rather watch the 'Squeal like a piggy' scene from the superior southern film 'Deliverance' on repeat than subject myself to Urban Cowboy ever again.
I give Urban Cowboy two honky tonk stars out of five.
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