Saturday, May 12, 2007

F/X (1986)

It's too bad professional assassins aren't bigger Brian Dennehy fans.

I never saw the recent movie Shooter but I did see the trailer, and it told me that the movie is about a sniper so talented that he is the only one who can help stop another sniper from assassinating the president. The sniper (played by Mark Wahlberg, at least in the trailer) is sadly too dumb to realize that because he is the only one talented enough to stop the sniper he's also the only one talented enough to BE the sniper, and he is actually framed for the assassination and then has to go on the Richard Kimble to prove his innocence.

Now, just watching this trailer, in that ninety seconds where the plot is laid out, I could tell: Shooter is going to get framed. It just sounded like a movie to me, and that's what would happen in the movie version of that story (well, obviously, that is the movie version of that story). Anyway, what I hadn't realized until tonight, when I watched the surprisingly good F/X from 1986, is that it sounded like a movie because it WAS a movie twenty years ago (and a full half a decade before Stephen Hunter wrote the novel upon which Shooter is based). They've got pretty much the exact same premise, except the hero of F/X is good with pyrotechnics instead of sniper rifles. If Shooter had been down with the Dennehy, he woulda known he was getting the shaft.

Shooter is as close to a remake of F/X as well ever get: much like Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo or Cobra this movie could only have been made in that wacky decade of my childhood, the 1980s. It was made in 1986, right at the point where analog special effects like pyrotechnics, prosthetics, and animatronics were all coming into bloom. Nowadays, all the effects are done on computers, and the nerds can all sit at their computers and make everything right there. Back in the day, a man had to get his hands dirty. If you didn't know how to kill a man by rigging a burgler alarm to deliver a massive amount of electric energy, they wouldn't even let you in the special effects masters guild in the 80s! Man, those were the days.

Anyway, our hero is an Aussie named Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown) an f/x guy for the movies well-versed in all those aforementioned disciplines. He's recruited to help the government's witness protection program. They have an important witness (played by a pre-Law & Order Jerry Orbach) with a price on his head. They're worried about people trying to kill him. So their idea is to fake like he's already been killed until the trial, so everyone thinks he's dead and doesn't try to kill him. Kind of an idea so dumb it's actually pretty ingenious.

Rollie goes along, probably because if he doesn't these jokers will cancel his work visa. But he gets played, framed for the murder, and so he has to go on the lamb. Now you'd think Rollie's first priority would be to prove his innocence. Not really. Nah, he'd rather just get even. So he uses his special effects to kill everyone. Like I said, only in the 80s.

Brian Dennehy plays the cop we expect to team up with Rollie in classic buddy movie fashion, but it doesn't happen (I think it does in F/X 2: The Search For More Money). Surprisingly, Brown and Dennehy don't appear in the same scene together until the finale. That's probably good for Brown because macho as he might be (like a real man, he answers the door in nothing but his briefs. No boxers, damnit, briefs!) Brian Dennehy is one manly man. Look at that moustache. He even gets a scene where he's called a loose cannon and he has to turn over his badge and gun. I love when cops become loose cannons and have to turn in their badges and their guns.

The complete and utter disregard for loose ends in this movie is so absurd it's downright charming. Rollie causes an incredible amount of property damage, plays a role in at least a dozen deaths, fakes his OWN death, leaves a guy in the trunk of a car to rot, and yet, there's no attempt to square his actions with society. At the end of the movie he's travelling abroad even though I think he's still wanted for murder. He musta used one of his prosthetic disguises to sneak through customs.

But that doesn't matter. None of it matters. All that matters is you get to see Rollie kill a man with Krazy glue and a well-timed shove. MacGuyver and Stan Winston on their best day couldn't match that. Those weenies over at WETA could learn a thing or two from Rollie Tyler. And so could Mark Wahlberg.


Blogger Susie Q said...

Loose ends and all, it is still an enjoyable movie, even after all these years. You are so right about another thing...Brian Dennehy IS a manly man. The man is to die for...

Great blog, super writing.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Matt Singer said...

Thank you! We all try to live up to the high standards Dennehy has set for us.

1:11 PM  

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