Gator McClusky is back to punch dudes and kiss ladies. This time he's gotta bust his buddy Roy from the first movie. Oh that's not Roy? That's Jerry Reed? Huh.
So as discussed the primary problem with the first film, White Lightning, is its tonally all over the place. Its a goofy car chase movie. Its a murder revenge against a corrupt elected official. Its a sexy time in the swamp. Gator doesn't suffer from that. Thematically, its much more focused. Jerry Reed's Bama McCall is a bit of a goofy villain more in line with James Bond than a Michael Mann movie. You don't feel too icky about him. He's a low level crook running a protection racket and whooores. He's NOT Ned Beatty who is nuts and murders college kids for political dissent. He just likes doing the crimes. That's the level of villain you want for a goofy car chase movie, where the ladies love the handsome guy and cats go on burglaries.
Hal Needham, of course, knocks the stunts out of the park, including one where he almost died (again) jumping out of a truck. However, this isn't crammed of his craziness. This IS a Burt Reynolds movie so you have to lace the stunts with him being good looking and charming. There might be more good looking and charming than stunts but both are at a 10 when they are on. Now that I think about it I can't remember anything in this movie that isn't one of those two things. Oh yeah, the cats doing burglary.
One can argue that White Lightning is the better of the two films and it does depend on your lens, but I can understand. Reynolds directed Gator and its clear he was learning as he went. The darker tone of White Lightning may also hold some accolades for some. I'm not in that camp. I love Gator for being what it is - an "I'm good looking and charming" Burt Reynolds with Hal Needham stunts. That's what I want my TV to loop constantly for the rest of my life and this fits the bill.