The Survivors Cover Life can be a pain in the butt at times, and make you do some very strange things indeed. For example: act, become a politician, watch reality television, read blogs, or, like some of the people in this film... sigh... survive. Survive, just like Director: Michael Ritchie; and Actors: Walter Matthau and Robin Williams – especially in 1983 and for 102 minutes.

The Survivors

Please allow me to tell you a very sad tale about two complete strangers, Sonny Paluso (Walter Matthau) and Donald Quinelle (Robin Williams), and how they both got their sh*t handed to them by chance of fate.

For a start, they both loose their jobs on the very same day: Sonny, due to an explosion, and Donald, due to a parrot. Next, they both have a hard time claiming unemployment: Sonny, due to an unruly desk clerk, and Donny, due to some communication problems. Plus to top it all off, they both get robbed whilst eating at the same dinner together: an encounter that they both manage to escape from by fending off the masked culprit involved, Jack Locke (Jerry Reed).

OK, so their day wasn't that bad after all, huh? Because they did save themselves from Jack's attack. Err? Yes and no really. No – because the media rebukes their actions in the press, causing Donnie to rebuke their rebuke. And yes – because when Jack hears what Donnie says in the press, he tracks down Sonny, who somehow manages to get Jack arrested with a little help from Donnie, and his daughter, Candice (Kristen Vigard).

Case closes? Hmmmm... nope!

Now feeling mighty exhilarated because of these strange turn of events, Donnie decides to buy some guns and other self-defense paraphernalia, as he then leaves for a ‘survivors retreat’ in the countryside. Sonny on the other hand just tries his best to carry on with his life – well – that is until Frank enters his life once again, and coerces him to contact Donny so that they settle this matter once and for all.

You see, Frank was released from police custody due to a computer error, and he now wants Sonny to contact Donny and make sure that he does not cause any more problems for him.

Easy, right? Err? Yes and no again, I'm afraid to say. Yes – because both Sonny and his daughter, Candice, drive up to the ‘survivors retreat’ and meet Sonny. And no – because Sonny is now a changed man due what he has learnt from ‘retreat owner’, Wes Huntley (James Wainwright).


Though I suppose that is why what next transpires is a strange and arduous affair all in all. As alliances flutter back and forth – ploys are instigated due north – hope is found when the wind does blow – and someone is left naked in the snow.

Personally speaking, I feel that 'The Survivor's is one of those films which has never had any decent critical praise in the media. People of note have complained about the contradictory styles and nature of this film, mainly due to the lead’s actors involved – Walter Matthau and Robin Williams – being too ‘of their time’. Me though, I think that these ‘people of note’ can go and shove their heads up their own a$$’s – because this film isn't a movie that is contradictory in styles, oh no, it is a film which has a philandering premise to its tale.

You see, to explain what I mean by this, please allow me give you a rough overlay of the pretext of this film. Act One: Two guys down on there luck meet under unfortunate circumstances. Act 2: The two guys part ways due to one of them being too lost within his own station in life. Act 3: Stuff happens and things get resolved.

Robin and Walter in The Survivors

Robin Williams In The Survivors
Fair enough, I know that this may seem like a normal play it by numbers type of a tale. However, it is within the last to ‘Acts’ of this story – 2 and 3 – that things start to fall apart cinematically.

Well, I just found that things felt kind of flat in these sections, because: (1) Motivations appeared kind of fleeting by nature – one minute one person would say one thing, and then after a quick counterpoint, he would do something else entirely. (2) The bond between Robin’s and Walter’s characters weren't properly established – and this made for the glue that held this story together a bit strained in places. (3) The ‘survivors’ segment of this tale was too ‘tried and tested’ for my own liking – because this type of ‘staged-scenario’ has been done to death even by this point in time, 1983. (4) Some of the auxiliary characters in this film – such as ‘the wives’ – where never really needed within the confines of this story, and only appeared as people to give exposition to. And (5) Certain happenstances and scenarios were either too ‘by chance’ or too ‘simple’ to explain away through exposition – such as when Jerry’s character found Walter’s character by simply calling someone.

Robin with a gun in The Survivors

Now please don’t get me wrong when I say all this, because all of the main actors in ‘The Survivors’ are very good – especially when they do what they do best, jest. My personal favorite scene in this film is the last one between Robin and Walter, and just goes to show you that these two comic actors can really make your eyes glaze over with the emotions that they can project. Also, I though that Jerry and Kristin were great in this film too – as both of them did reinforce this story in a charming and congenial way. Oh! And please let us not forget about the message behind this story, huh? "When hope is lost, certain people don’t really know where to turn to, to find salvation" – a message that is still relevant today.

Overall, this double-act comedy is a nice eighties movie, and in a strange way reminds me of a mixture of 'The Odd Couple', 'Seize the Day' and 'Pink Cadillac', with a touch of ‘The Hunted’ for good measure. So if you are a fan of either Robin or Walter, what are you waiting for? Be a survivor!


THE SURVIVORS THE SURVIVORS Reviewed by David Andrews on September 29, 2011 Rating: 5
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