Don’t mess with Hollywood special effects guys.
The villains in F/X make this mistake, and spend the next ninety minutes paying for it in increasingly hilarious ways. This is a clever popcorn thriller with some great payoffs.
Our hero is effects wizard Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown), reluctantly recruited by the Justice Department to fake the assassination of DeFranco, a New York mob informant. Compared to goblins and car flips, this looks like easy money for Rollie – just a restaurant, some blood packs, and a .38 loaded with blanks.
Or… were they blanks?
Now Rollie is on the run, DeFranco is really dead, and the Justice Department is “tying off loose ends.” Hunted by corrupt spooks and a detective with an agenda of his own (Brian Dennehy), Rollie must untangle the conspiracy and learn who framed him and why. Along the way he uses every trick in his arsenal (accumulated over a long career of gory B-movies such as “I Dismember Mama”) to outwit his pursuers, and eventually, fight back.
The script is entertaining and well-paced, serving up a constant supply of problems, solutions, and even few major twists. Early on, F/X surprised me by killing of a character I assumed to be protected by plot armor, and a late double-cross involving Dennehy’s detective had me laughing. The tone walks a careful tightrope – dark enough to build real suspense, but light and goofy enough to be fun.
Dennehy is great as a Dirty Harry-esque cop, but it’s Bryan Brown’s show and he makes a charmingly unconventional action hero. He’s basically an ordinary guy with an extraordinary talent for deception, so the obligatory shootouts and fistfights are handled creatively. Being an eighties film, Rollie’s portfolio is refreshingly free of the high-tech stuff we’ve grown so accustomed to in recent movies. It’s strictly hardware – mirrors, latex masks, pyrotechnics, and good old superglue – and F/X is all the better for it as we watch Rollie jerry rig a lethal surprise with little more than the contents of his trunk.
Sure, his tactics are so immaculately timed and staged (particularly in the final thirty minutes) that he seems to possess some mild form of precognition. Many of his ruses depend on the bad guys reacting in a very precise way – and not, for example, putting an additional bullet into an apparently dead body just to be sure. But why pick at improbabilities? It’s a piece of entertainment, not a thesis paper. At one point in F/X, Rollie literally kills a man with a balloon.
To see how he accomplishes this, check out F/X this Saturday at 9pm on ThisTV (or catch an encore on February 25th or 27th).
Review By: Taylor Adams