Movie Review:
The Survivors (1983)

The survivors (1983)

TITLE: The Survivors

RELEASE DATE: April 6, 1984




When Sonny Paluso's (Walter Matthau) gas station is blown up and Donald Quinelle (Robin Williams) loses his cushy executive job, the two men meet on the unemployment line. 

Demoralized by how long it is, they repair to a diner, where they witness a murder by Jack Locke (Jerry Reed), a notorious hit man. Sonny and Donald soon realize that Locke is now targeting them, and Donald cracks up under the pressure, enrolling in an extreme survivalist school to learn how to defend himself, before challenging Jack to a final battle.


This movie has a lot of themes that are prevalent and reflective of society today, as well as they were in the 1980s. The paranoia, distrust of the government and fellow citizens, amassing weapons to defend against foes real and imaginary, the preparation for an "inevitable" civil war coming... and, perhaps the most prescient... the absolute inability for someone to admit they were wrong and back off.

Of course, there's a bunch of satirization of violence and survivalism, mocking the fear of nuclear war, obsession with gun culture and even the self-help culture as well. ;)


Jerry Reed’s performance is fantastic. I would like to eliminate the rest of the movie and just follow him on what he does for his job.

I also enjoyed how the credits signified the end of this film.


I don’t really enjoy saying mean things about films. I am a big believer that too many people work on films to disparage the entire thing. But man, this movie is a clustermess. 

There’s a lot I don’t like. The simple fact is a lot of stems from the absolute lack of chemistry between Robin Williams and Walter Mathieu. Just because two people are funny does NOT mean their comedy styles mesh. Each is individually okay in this movie, but together, there’s never a single moment where I witnessed what I expected from these two and that saddens me.

The plot is borderline incoherent in places and I feel pretty justified in saying the plot is simultaneously too thin while being incredibly overcomplicated. Nothing ever fully justifies… anything… that happens in this movie, but particularly everything that happens in the final act.


My favorite part, by far, is the moment when Jack (Jerry Reed)’s wife asks if he’s cheating on her and lays out her evidence and he laughs, sits down, and explains he’s a hit man and how he has to go out of town to kill two men who know who he is. He ends with, “So, see? Not cheating on you,” (Paraphrasing, I don’t know the quote) and she says, “Oh thank god!”


I absolutely did not like this movie. But I think the concept at the core of it would be really reflective of the society we’re in today. The paranoia, amassing weapons, trusting no one, preparing for an upcoming civil war, the distrust of the government, and the refusal to see the truth in front of you and admit you were wrong ALL play a heavy role in today’s society. I could imagine a darker version of this film doing well today… and I hate that.