James Dickey’s novel turned script gets the attention it deserves in the form of John Boorman. Four friends test their mettle against the mighty Cahulawassee River in the Georgia wild, and guess what? The wild wins. Shot in sequence and on location, Boorman’s film bristles with testosterone, tension, and a breakout Burt Reynolds performance that presages his iconic Gator and Bandit. He is wearing a wet suit vest as a shirt, for crying out loud! There is only one person in the world who can get away with that. Rounding out the cast is a wonderful John Voight in full everyman mode, Ronny Cox playing the hell out of his role, and gut wrenching newcomer Ned Beatty who deserves every accolade you can muster (you’ll see why). Poet and novelist James Dickey tries his hand at acting, with marvelous effect, as the town’s sheriff, and with all the fine actors doing all their own stunts (including Burt flying down the final set of rapids like a crazy person), all of the pieces necessary to make a great survival film have just fallen into place. The universe says you’re welcome, by the way. Hats off to Bill McKiney, maniac and tremendous talent responsible for the best show of non-blinking I think I have ever seen. Where you goin’, city boy?