At the start of the movie, Evel is about to do one of his stunts in Las Vegas.
Then it is 1950 in Butte, Montana. Bobby steals the hubcaps off this amazing car whose radio can play songs that won't be recorded for several more years. Bobby is chased by a cop with a car that won't be available to the general public for eight more years. He is thrown in jail with a drunk named "Awful" Knoffel, and at that time is nicknamed "Evel".
Fast-forward to 1958. Bobby is working in the local mine and hates it. He would rather ride his motorcycle (the drunk he met in jail is the one who works on it). And he does stunts for anyone interested. He jumps over a Volkswagen Beetle which is a style not actually sold at that time. He meets Linda, and they fall for each other right away. Her father wants him to stay away from her, but do you honestly believe that will stop him? No, he kidnaps her (she later says she went willingly) and gets chased by that same cop, still driving that same car after all these years, but now anyone can get one like it.
In 1965 Bobby and Linda are married with two boys and living in Washington state. He has sold insurance but didn't seem to like it. He works for a motorcycle shop but what he really wants to do is stunts, and he sets one up and charges $1 to anyone who wants to watch. It doesn't go as well as expected, but "Evel" isn't hurt too badly.
Several years later Evel is preparing to do his biggest stunt yet, and he has to convince the man who runs Caesar's Palace to let him do it. Jay Samo is willing to take that gamble. Men want to see him crash and women just want to see him. Again, things don't go quite as planned. It is actress Linda Evans whose film documents just what happened, and we see what must be that film, along with new material with a stuntman. Considering Evel was hospitalized for a month, this was a very good stuntman who did what was also shown in the Evans film. Evel is told he might never walk again and that he certainly will never ride again. Oh, really? You don't know Evel!
The movie is halfway over and the only successful stunt we have seen is the jump over the Volkswagen. Still, Evel Knievel is a major celebrity and he is already talking about jumping the Grand Canyon. He has a tractor-trailer to haul him around. He tells exaggerated stories, such as how he met Steve McQueen and it was McQueen who first called him Evel. He loves his country. He has a nice house with a pool, though wife Linda wishes he would spend more time there. She looks great in a bikini, but Evel can't resist temptation on the road, and she knows it. Yet for some reason, even though he doesn't seem to treat her right in the scenes we see, she stays with him.
The Grand Canyon is out--the federal government won't allow it--but Snake River Canyon is another possibility. ABC's "Wide World of Sports" seems interested, but the only way to watch it live is in arenas that offer closed circuit TV. A NASA engineer is hired to make the jump happen, but things don't look good in the early preparations. But I have heard of Evel Knievel so you know he must be doing something right.
And a man sells Ideal on a competitor to Barbie and G.I. Joe--the Evel Knievel action figure. Ideal, the company which according to this movie already made Rubik's cubes in 1970, and had a giant unsolved one in a conference room.
I won't go into all the details in case you don't know his full story, but this is quite an exciting movie with a charming if temperamental lead character who thinks he is the white Muhammad Ali. No, wait, Ali is the black Evel Knievel.
It's not an award-winning movie by any means, but there are some good performances. George Eads is quite talented, for this material, with this unbelievable confidence and charm. Fred Thompson does his usual fine job as the man who runs Caesar's Palace. Evel's nurse has only a couple of lines but Quancetia Hamilton makes the most of them. Jaime Pressly, before she ever won her two Emmys for "My Name Is Earl", certainly showed what she was capable of. I was particularly impressed with a scene where Evel pretends to have an accent while talking on the phone in a phone booth.
As is often the case with biographical movies, this movie puts a little too much emphasis on the angry moments. I'm pleased that they didn't go overboard making Evel's home life look bad. Linda really was committed to the "stand by your man" attitude, for whatever reason. The real footage, while not high quality compared to what is possible today, is quite effective.
I didn't know a lot about Evel before I saw this movie. I actually thought the Grand Canyon stunt had really happened. So I didn't know what was real and what wasn't. After looking up some real information about the man, I see the movie left a lot out and made some things happen at different times than they really did, but for what this movie is, it's pretty entertaining and there's no point in getting too concerned about what they got wrong. The important information is there.
It was an entertaining effort.