Directed by and starring Burt Reynolds with a script from Elmore Leonard adapting his own novel of the same name, Universal's 1985 film Stick tells the story of Ernest Stickney (Reynolds), a man who has recently been released from seven hard years behind bars. Early in the story, he and his pal Rainy (Jose Perez) take some money from a pusher named Chucky (Charles Durning) to deliver to a supplier named Nestor (Castulo Guerra), but it doesn't end well and Rainy winds up dead.
Stick blames Nestor for the setup and wants revenge, while wanting payment from Chucky, and winds up stuck in the middle of all of this. In the interim, he takes a job as a chauffeur for the wealthy Barry Braham (George Segal), allowing him to lie low for a while, and then quickly finds himself hooking up with Barry's financial advisor, Kyle (Candice Bergen). Revenge, however, is never far from Stick's mind while Chucky and Nestor turn out to have some plans of their own.
Stick had a lot of problems. When Reynolds turned in his original cut, Universal was unhappy with it and, months later, forced him to do reshoots. He did, but he clearly did so under duress as there's a fairly big shift in tone from the first half of the movie to the second half. It's also pretty obvious where the reshoots were spiced into the movie, as Reynolds himself looks visibly different in some of the footage shot later, having lost some weight due to an injury he suffered while making City Heat. Annie Potts' character was removed from the film entirely as was Tammy Wynette's character. The end result is… uneven and messy. That's not to say that it isn't without its moments, but it never feels right and it's easy to see why Leonard was reportedly unhappy with how it all turned out.
As to what works, well, the action scenes and stunt work in the film are genuinely impressive. Stick is a pretty violent film but the violence in the picture is used well, it hits hard and it carries some impact. The movie is reasonably stylish, the cinematography is quite good and the location work has an appropriately hot, sweaty atmosphere to it that jibes with the story. Performances are decent enough. This isn't Reynold's finest moment but he doesn't embarrass himself even with the obvious weight loss evident in some scenes. He's suave and cool, he does the tough guy things well. Candice Bergen is lovely here but isn't given nearly as much to do as you might hope, given that she's a very talented actress. George Segal plays Stick's affluent employer well enough, they have an interesting chemistry, with Perez and Durning play the scuzzy crooks rather well.
The flow of the film, however, is understandably a bit rocky. The tinkering and re-shoots put upon the filmmakers by the studio may have intended to up the action quotient and cut back on some of the movie's more comedic moments but instead of tightening things up, it instead results in a disjointed picture made watchable thanks to some interesting action set pieces and a few good performances. Besides, where else are you going to see Burt Reynolds fight an albino hitman? Isn't that worth the price of admission alone?
Kino Lorber brings Stick to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. It's a nice-looking transfer that boasts good detail, depth and texture. The image is quite clean, showing very little print damage while retaining plenty of natural film grain (though the opening credits look a little on the dirty side). There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement nor is there any obvious noise reduction. Not a reference quality pictures but a decent one.
The English language DTS-HD 2.0 track on the disc is free of any issues. Dialogue stays clear, clean and well-balanced from start to finish and there are no audible problems with any noticeable hiss or distortion.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from film critic Nick Pinkerton. There's a lot of talk here about the re-shoots required and the film's rocky production history, as well as background information on the novel that inspired it, Florida noir, lots of biographical details about the cast and crew, the stunts in the film, and more. Pinkerton knows his stuff and delivers an interesting track.
Additionally, the disc includes a still gallery, a theatrical trailer, bonus trailers for other Kino Lorber properties, menus and chapter selection. It would have been nice to get some of the deleted scenes that are out there or even a standard definition version of the film's original cut, but that didn't happen.
Stick isn't a masterpiece, in fact, it's tonally all over the place and more than a little messy, but it's watchably messy thanks to some good casting and more than decent action scenes. Kino's Blu-ray offers up a decent enough presentation and an interesting commentary as its main extra features. Recommended for those who already know they like the film, a solid rental for everyone else.