Thursday, June 17, 2010

F/X - 3.5/5

Look at that title. It's so strange. The letter F and X with a slash between them. It's such an odd title that it no doubt attracted a lot of viewers just to see what the hell the plot was about. Well F/X means "effects" as in "special effects" and that title is just the beginning of one of my all time favorite suspense thrillers from the 80's.

The film opens with a shootout at a high class restaurant and it ends up being a movie set with special effects wizard Roland Tyler (Bryan Brown) at the helm. Due to his reputation he is a approached by the witness protection program to stage a phony death in public of a well known mafia member who is going to testify against his former partners. The fake death of course ends tragically and Tyler ends up finding himself the target of the police! It's now a cat and mouse chase as the corrupt police are after Tyler while he uses his special effects talent to escape and clear his name. What's wonderful about this plot is that during Tyler's story there is a secondary story following detective Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy) who finds the whole aspect fishy and does his own personal investigation into the mess. His flirty relationship with a computer tech is priceless!

What's ironic about this film is though the character is a special effects artist, the film isn't about special effects. It's about characters and story. The film is tightly directed by Robert Mandel and the pace is just perfect for a suspense thriller but sadly the film does have some flaws. The first flaw is Tyler's girlfriend who seems underdeveloped and when she bites it, Tyler by the end of the film doesn't seem to care. Some love relationship! Tyler's special effects helper Ellen is also severely underdeveloped and after Tyler uses her for some help, he drops her off at some street corner and she's never heard from again! However there was a cute sequence when Ellen was waiting up for Tyler in her apartment lobby and fell asleep in a chair in which Tyler ties her legs together. The film also gets a little ridiculous with Tyler using his special effects technique to defeat some goons at the end. All that time and effort for setting up those illusion traps and it had the same outcome if he just went in with guns blazing. However, to the film's credit, it is a film about a special effects artist so it should have him using his talent to bring the corrupt assholes down.

Despite some of its character flaws this is a solid suspense thriller with a great cast, solid pacing and eye-catching title. The film kept me glued to the screen and actually, when I was younger, made me want to be a special effects artist myself as the film does go in depth on how to do many movie effects. Sadly the profession Tyler does in the film is a dying art and it surprises me that MGM is currently in the works for remaking it. Are they going to make Tyler a computer effects artists instead? Oh god no! Just leave it be... a solid suspense thriller form the 80's, a decade where it should stay.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

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