Richard Pryor sets out on the road to redemption as Joe Braxton, a repeat-offender given one last chance before jail; as part of his parole he’ll drive a bus-load of special-needs kids across the country. Naturally, a sequence of wild and unforeseen antics ensues, including a perilous run-in with a branch of the Ku Klux Klan.
Made in the middle of a golden run for Pryor, just after Stir Crazy, Bustin’ Loose is on the face of it a milder affair than some of his comedies. But despite its young cast, Bustin’ Loose is a much edgier and more interesting film than it first seems.
The film is often remembered because of an infamous off-set incident during its production, when a troubled Pryor set himself on fire, leading to six weeks’ hospitalisation. Whether the film’s themes of redemption and childhood deprivation (Pryor’s own was notoriously troubled) resonated so deeply as to accentuate his personal anguish, one can only speculate. But Bustin’ Loose deserves to be remembered as another shining example of Pryor’s matchless talent for screen comedy.