Journal: An Alternate Take on Smokey And The Bandit

An Alternate Take on Smokey And The Bandit

By Andrey Smazhilo
February 23, 2015

I grew up watching Soviet cartoons and movies, and from what I remember, the outlaws in Soviet movies were always anti-social villains. They weren’t maniacs or psychopaths but it was obvious that it is not what the Soviet government wanted citizens across the USSR to behave like.

I must confess, I have only recently watched Smokey and the Bandit. The excuse for my ignorance is the fact that I was born in Ukraine, grew up in Russia—where I am living now—and had very limited access to what most of you, dear readers, call “classic American movies”.

Partly due to my parents’ negative attitude towards anti-social behaviour, and partly due to the fact that Iron Curtain has completely faded only over the last few decades, I first heard about the Bandit’s Trans Am when watching a Fast N’ Loud episode. I liked the story behind the car and put the movie on my watchlist.

“The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarkana, and we’ll bring it back no matter what it takes!”—having watched the movie, this lyric best describes it for me now. I am no big fan of old movies, but ones like this that include reckless driving and massive acts of law-breaking, like the Dukes of Hazzard—I like them a lot.

The way those films were shot is so different from what we see these days in cinemas. Classic movies have some sort of patina, exactly like classic cars. In a way, you’re able to travel a bit back in time for a glimpse at what other countries were doing at the time.

My impression after watching Smokey and the Bandit was that the law and people in the US exist separately, if it can be said so: if you want to do something but there is law in your way, why not try breaking it without getting caught?

Especially, in Bandit’s case, when you are challenged—and the prize is worth it. As a local hero, with many friends along the way aiding and abetting, Bandit successfully bootlegged beer to Atlanta. The expression on Sheriff Justice’s face, when Bandit got away (and the way he said ‘som’bitch’)—that’s something to remember!

Thinking of modern Russia, I can say that today, people feel a lot less pressure from the law than it used to be in the USSR. Back then, illegal activities were considered wrongful by society, but these days, the attitude towards the law has changed a lot.

When you get stopped by road police in Russia, bribe is sometimes the way to avoid a fine. In serious cases like a DUI, you might not get away with it, and your driving license would be suspended—but driving fast and reckless, eh, why not? That is the opinion of many. (One look at a Russian dash cam compilation will confirm that! -Ed.)

Bootlegging is almost forgotten these days, but we still break laws sometimes. The police have become smarter, getting away has become much harder, and if you’re a fan of fast driving, well, there are too many speed cameras, don’t you think so?

However, if you stick to the “don’t get caught” principle and don’t draw too much attention to yourself, these days, it seems that no one will ever care that you have broken the law—in this way, I guess modern-day Russia has taken a page from the book of Bandit! 

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Musa Suleymanov
Musa Suleymanov
9 years ago

At childhood we called this car “phoenix car”, because no one knew such brand as Pontiac.

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