The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Movie Reviews - F
The Fabulous Baker Boys
1989, 20th Century Fox, Rated R

Jeff Bridges
Michelle Pfeiffer
Beau Bridges

Written & Directed by Steven Kloves

Once in a great while all the participants in the making of a movie just happen to do their best work at the same moment. The result is a classic film. That's what happened with The Fabulous Baker Boys. It tells the story of Jack and Frank Baker (Jeff and Beau Bridges), a duo of lounge pianists who've been performing in Seattle nightclubs for fifteen years. Though times change, their repertoire hasn't, and in order to spice up the act the boys decide to add a female singer. Easier said then done -- they suffer through 37 auditions (one of the film's many classic scenes) before Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) stumbles in and wows them with her sultry voice. At first it seems that Susie is just what the doctor ordered; the Baker boys see their fame and fortune soar to new heights. In fact, Susie is the catalyst for the dissolution of the act; after a sizzling if short-lived romance with Jack, Susie quits, and when the boys are relegated to playing a demeaning gig in a local telethon, Jack realizes that he just can't do it anymore. An extraordinary jazz pianist, he's stuck with playing tired old standards with Frank because he lacks the courage to pursue his dream. The three principals go their separate ways -- as we all know, life does not guarantee a happy ending.
One of this film's many virtues is the way its main characters are transformed before our very eyes from stereotype to genuine article. Jack appears at first to be as hip and cool as any protagonist Hollywood ever created; in truth, though, he is a coward, afraid of commitment, and is more lazy than laid-back. Initially, Frank seems to be a rather pathetic -- not to mention neurotic -- dullard, but turns out to be a hero of sorts, a man who knuckles down and does a job he's not particularly fond of because he understands the responsibility of a husband and father to provide for his family. And Susie turns out to be much more than a jaded, tough-talking, gum-chewing escort-turned-chanteuse. Michelle Pfeiffer deservedly received an Oscar nomination for her performance as Susie Diamond, and proved herself to be an actress of startling versatility. The scene in which she sprawls langorously across Jack's piano and sings "Makin' Whoopie" is the film's most celebrated moment, but just as memorable is her not-so-grand entrance to the audition for the Baker boys, and her debut before a live audience. First-time director (and writer) Steven Kloves does an extraordinary job with dialogue that deserves close attention. Dave Grusin had done countless scores before signing on to do one for this film, but he never did one better. The Fabulous Baker Boys is romantic, heartwarming, funny, melancholy -- in short, it's fabulous.

Eighties Club rating: ****

US box office: $16.8 million
US release date: 10.13.89

"The Candy Man," Jennifer Tilly
"The Girl From Ipanema," Dave Grusin
"My Way," Lisa Raggio
"Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" Michelle Pfeiffer
"Jingle Bells"
Michaelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges
"The Look Of Love," Michelle Pfeiffer
"Prelude To A Kiss"
Duke Ellington Orchestra
"Moonglow," Benny Goodman Quartet
"Makin' Whoopee," Michelle Pfeiffer
"Solitude," Tony Bennett

Golden Globe Award
Best Performance by an Actress
 (Michelle Pfeiffer)

Grammy Award
Best Album of Original Instrumentation Background Score for a Motion Picture

Fatal Attraction
1987, Paramount, Rated R

Michael Dougas
Glenn Close
Anne Archer

Directed by Adrian Lyne
Written by James Dearden & Nicholas Meyer

Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) seems to have it all: a good job as an attorney for a publishing house, a beautiful 6-year-old daughter, a loving wife (Anne Archer). And yet, when given the chance, Dan cheats on his spouse with a woman he meets at a party. Dan is obviously a chauvinistic cad, and if there's any doubt of that it's dispelled when he tries to get rid of the other woman. His problem is that she won't go quietly. Suddenly Dan finds himself trying to keep the truth from his wife in order to save his marriage. That's not easy to do when the other woman finds out she's pregnant. With no regard for anyone but himself, Dan insists that she get an abortion. But she won't hear of it.
So far, so good. Fatal Attraction, though, is a schizophrenic film. The first half is taut psychological thriller with a modern twist, the latter being that both female leads are sympathetic characters while the male lead is wholly unsympathetic. Beth Gallagher is obviously a wonderful wife and mom; if she has a flaw we don't see it. And the other woman, Alex Forrest (Glenn Glose) has some valid complaints when Dan just uses her and then (tries to) walk away. It's no coincidence that so many women hailed the film when it came out, since it showed how chauvinistic males victimized not only their spouses but also their mistresses in an affair. But then we learn that Alex is a psychotic stalker who terrorizes not only Dan (dousing his car with acid) but also Beth and her daughter (the famous scene in which Beth  comes home to discover her daughter's pet rabbit cooking on the stove.) The ending has Alex attacking Beth and Dan in their home. Of course, she's killed -- by Beth, as poor Dan can't even do that right. And the film closes with Dan and Beth embracing, leading us to assume that all is forgiven and that they'll live happily ever after.
Little wonder that so many critics -- and not a few viewers -- felt cheated by this entirely formulaic Hollywood climax. Turning Alex into a psycho undermines the moral of the story -- assuming the filmmakers ever intended there to be one -- as her actions serve to shift the onus for everything that happens away from Dan. Nonetheless, the film was a huge hit that received six Academy Award nominations -- including Best Picture, Best Director (Adrian Lynne), Best Actress (Close), Best Supporting Actress (Archer). It didn't win any Oscars, though, because Fatal Attraction, while a thriller that will hold your attention, is also a fatally flawed piece of work.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $156.6 million
US release date: 9.18.87

"Circle In The Sand," Belinda Carlisle
(& more; GNP Crescendo)

People's Choice Awards
Favorite Motion Picture

Fatal Beauty
1987, MGM, Rated R

Whoopi Goldberg
Sam Elliott
Harris Yulin

Directed by Tom Holland
Written by Hilary Henkin & Dean Riesner from a story by Bill Svanoe

Considering the huge success met with by Eddie Murphy as waycool police detective Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop (1984), it was probably inevitable that Hollywood would present us with a female version.  So meet Rita Rizzoli (Whoopi Goldberg).  She's black, she's hip, she's tough, she's a wisecracking narcotics cop out to save Los Angeles druggies from a batch of lethal nose candy called "Fatal Beauty."  This drop-dead-in-your-tracks dumb-dust is being peddled by the minions of sleazy drug kingpin Conrad Kroll (Harris Yulin), and in the course of her investigation Rizzoli makes the acquaintance of Kroll's head of security Mike Marshak, played by Sam Elliott.  Kroll has Marshak keep an eye on Rizzoli in case she gets too close to breaking the case, and in the process a romance (of sorts) blossoms between cop and bodyguard.  It's as unlikely a pair of lovebirds as you'll ever see on the screen.  There is zero chemistry between Elliott and Goldberg anyway, so we are left with the conclusion that the mutual admiration shared by these characters is based largely on their singular ability to leave the streets, alleys and flophouses of L.A. littered with the bodies of bad guys.  Rizzoli's death-defying crusade against drugs is eventually explained in the most bizarre fashion -- seems she used to be an addict herself, until her baby got into her stash and died as a result.  This plot device, supposedly designed to lend credibility to Rizzoli's shoot-first approach to police work, comes too late to do much good because by then we just don't care.  (And exactly how did an addict responsible for her child's death end up a cop instead of a convict, anyway?)  Both Goldberg and Elliott have plenty of screen presence, but the rest of this ludicrous and violent film is very hard on the eyes.

Eighties Club rating: *

US box office: $12 million
US release date: October 1987

"Sin City," War
"On The Edge Of Love," Miki Howard
"Make It My Night," Donna Allen
"Casanova," Levert
"Red Hot," Debbie Gibson
(& more)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
1986, Paramount, Rated PG-13

Matthew Broderick
Mia Sara
Alan Ruck

Written & Directed by John Hughes

Let's get right to the bottom line: This is another of director John Hughes' masterpieces. It would be difficult to pick Hughes' best single work -- how could one choose between Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Some Kind of Wonderful, She's Having A Baby, and this modern classic? Matthew Broderick stars, in a bravura performance, as Ferris Bueller, a smart, charming high school senior who decides to play hooky from school. He concocts an elaborate scheme to fool his parents into believing he's sick, cons the high school into releasing his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara), and persuades his best buddy Cameron (Alan Ruck) to come with them on a romp into Chicago in a Ferrari that is the pride and joy of Cameron's father. They visit the Sears Tower, the Mercantile Exchange, and go to a ballgame at Wrigley Field. Ferris fast-talks them into a swank Gold Coast restaurant, then takes over a German-American parade on Dearborn Street, and before long has the entire city dancing to "Twist And Shout." That's the way it is with Ferris Bueller -- everything seems to work out the way he wants it; he is the master of his own destiny, and the Fates are kind. He is hero and inspiration to angst-ridden  teenagers everywhere. As the high school secretary says, "The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads—they all adore him." another reviewer aptly puts it, Bueller is the Huck Finn of the 1980s.
As with most of Hughes' films, the adults are stereotypes. School administrator Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), suspects that Ferris is pulling another fast one, and sets out to prove it -- with hilarious consequences. Bueller's parents are loving, but they're too engrossed in their own lives to take the time necessary to find out what their kids are all about. Cameron's father, though he's never seen, is even worse -- he's so materialistic that he gives more loving attention to his Ferrari than he does to his son. Little wonder that Cameron is a moody hypochondriac. On this magical day, though, Ferris shows Cameron how to acquire some self-respect. Ferris is a rebel, but his rebellion is not anti-establishment; in fact, Ferris manipulates the system, just like any good yuppie go-getter would. Broderick seems tailor-made for the role and he's been defined by it ever since. (He earned a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination for the performance.) He's especially good delivering the straight-at-the-camera soliloquys, pearls of wisdom that have made Ferris Bueller a teen icon since 1986. One of them goes like this: "Life moves pretty fast. If you can't stop and look around, you could miss it." One of the joys of life you don't want to miss is Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Eighties Club rating: ****

US box office: $70.1 million
US release date: 6.11.86

"Bad," Big Audio Dynamite
"Danke Schoen," Wayne Newton
"The Edge Of Forever"
The Dream Academy
"Oh Yeah," Yello
"Twist And Shout," The Beatles
(& more)

Fighting Back
1982, Dino De Laurentiis/Paramount Rated R

Tom Skerritt
Patti LuPone
Michael Sarrazin

Directed by Lewis Teague
Written by David Zelag Goodman & Thomas Hedley, Jr.

Crime was a hot-button issue in the 1980s; as the decade opened crime rates were skyrocketing and citizens were complaining that the police often seemed unable to protect them. As a result,  neighborhood patrols springing up everywhere in the '80s. Bernhard Goetz, the Subway Vigilante, became a folk hero to many. The red-bereted Guardian Angels were applauded for their extralegal crimefighting, too. Fighting Back is the story of John D'Angelo (Tom Skerritt), a shopkeeper whose family has lived for generations in an old Philadelphia neighborhood that has become infested by the criminal element. Some of D'Angelo's relatives move away, but John won't pull up roots, not even when he's driven off the road by a pimp -- an incident which results in his wife (Patti LuPone) having a miscarriage. Instead, he forms a citizens' patrol and proceeds to fight fire with fire. He and his associates use their fists, clubs, and even their vehicles to roust the bad guys. In the process, D'Angelo becomes a hero and is urged to run for councilman. Nothing -- not even the death of his best friend Vince Morelli (Michael Sarrazin) or the opposition of the police chief and local councilman, who fear his growing power -- can stop D'Angelo. The film closes with D'Angelo wreaking a terrible vengeance on the pimp responsible for Morelli's death on the same night he seems to be on the way to winning his first election.
Endowed with the kind of gritty, cinema verite realism so in vogue in the late '70s and early '80s, Fighting Back is ably directed by Lewis Teague, who keeps the suspense at a high pitch, and Tom Skerritt does a commendable job as the Everyman hero Americans have immortalized ever since the Minutemen put down their plows, picked up their rifles, and gave the British what for at Lexington and Concord. The film's message is clear -- Americans have a right to do whatever is necessary to defend their freedoms, in this case the freedom to live and raise their children in safe neighborhoods, and no sacrifice is too great to that end. As to the rights of the predators, well, who honestly cares, save for the bleeding-heart liberal, who was completely out-of-favor in the Eighties anyway? Unfortunately, neither Teague, Skerritt nor the writers (David Zelag Goodman and Thomas Hedley, Jr.) bother to explore the emotional boundaries of a common man forced into taking desperate measures to save his home and family. Skerritt's D'Angelo busts heads with the skill and aplomb of a Rambo, and if he's bothered by the blood on his hands he has cleansed his conscience by the time he sits down to dinner. This is nothing more than a straightforward action flick, and as such it is fairly ordinary, save for the fact that it marks a sea-change in the American public's attitude about crime and how to deal with it.

Eighties Club rating: **

1984, Paramount, Rated PG

Teri Garr
Peter Weller
Christopher Collet

Directed by Michael Apted
Written by Ron Koslow

Firstborn could be viewed as the quintessential Eighties morality tale. It warns of not one but two of the scourges feared most by those concerned by what they perceived to be an unraveling of society. The film explores the dire consequences that can arise from divorce and broken homes; it shows us a family suffering gradual disintegration, one that is only brought back together by crisis. And, as did so many Hollywood features of the decade, it portrays the dangers of cocaine, albeit from a perspective -- that of the kids of a single mom who becomes an addict -- not often utilized. Finally, Firstborn uses a plot device that became cliche in the 1980s -- teenagers who have a more firm grasp on "right and wrong" than their parents do. Indeed, taken as whole, the entire teen-flick genre of the era generally convey the notion that parents -- i.e. the "baby boom" generation that had brought us the counterculture, Vietnam, Watergate and a host of other social and political aberrations -- had to be brought to their senses by their kids -- "Generation Xers", who in the process of saving their folks will put society back on track again. Who knows, in time history may prove that this concept has merit. But in terms of film history, it's not too soon to say that Firstborn is as cheerless and preachy as one of those afterschool specials which it resembles so strikingly, and which were once all the rage.
Teri Garr stars as Wendy Livingston, a single suburban mom trying to raise two sons, Jake (Christopher Collet) and Brian (Corey Haim). After two years alone, she allows new boyfriend Sam (Peter Weller) to move in. Sam turns out to be one of those people who always has grand dreams but lacks the fortitude necessary to make those dreams reality. He's turned to drug dealing to make easy money, using Wendy's savings to purchase the stash he hides in her house, and turning her into an addict so that she won't rebel. The boys see what's going on, but they have no one to turn to; their father has remarried and moved away, and if they go to the police their mother gets into trouble. The younger, Brian, wants to run away. But Jake stands and fights for his home and family. Unfortunately, it's at this point that the film loses credibility. The Ramboesque resolution of the crisis approaches the absurd, as Jake makes off with Sam's stash, is chased through the streets of town by Sam, and then joins his mother (who's finally come to her senses) and little Brian in a knock-down-drag-out fight with Sam in the living room, prevailing over the villain and casting him out into the darkness where he belongs. Firstborn  is a schizophrenic film, with a number of story threads introduced in the first half left dangling. Why, for instance, is so much time spent establishing that Jake is a budding star of the high school lacrosse team? Why bother introducing Jake's girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) if we're not going to explore how his domestic crisis affects the relationship? The list could go on. Worth noting is the presence of Parker and Robert Downey, Jr., two talents criminally squandered in this movie, and of a young Corey Haim, fresh from a short-lived 1982 TV series, The Edison Twins, who would have quite a career in the 1980s as a teen hearthrob, and whose filmography would include Secret Admirer (1985), Lucas (1986), The Lost Boys (1987) and License to Drive (1988). There's not much else about Firstborn that's noteworthy.

Eighties Club rating: **

US box office: $6.2 million
US release date: 10.26.84

A Fish Called Wanda
1988, MGM, Rated R

John Cleese
 Jamie Lee Curtis
Kevin Kline

Directed by Charles Crichton
Written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton

Arguably the best film comedy of the decade, A Fish Called Wanda is one of those comic masterpieces that may have you busting out in laughter long after you've seen it. It's classic John Cleese, who not only co-wrote the screenplay but also performed some of the directorial chores (uncredited) with veteran Ealing Studio director Crichton. That's not to denigrate the tremendous, award-winning contributions of Cleese's costars, particularly Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. Kline plays Otto, the psychotic boyfriend of Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), a pair in cahoots with jewel thief George Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and his stuttering, somewhat dim-witted sidekick Ken (Palin). Following a successful diamond heist, Wanda and Otto turn George in to the police, hoping to make off with the stolen loot themselves -- only to discover that clever George has hidden the booty and is now thinking about surrendering it to the authorities in exchange for a reduced sentence. In order to find the diamonds, Wanda proceeds to seduce George's barrister, Archie (Cleese), who, feeling trapped in a loveless marriage, quickly succumbs. Meanwhile, George sets Ken the task of killing an old lady who is a witness against him -- a task that Ken is woefully ill-equipped to perform. What results is a hilarious romp as these devious and often bumbling lawbreakers turn on one another.
Along the way, Cleese manages to skewer just about everyone and everything -- Americans, Brits, the legal system, animal lovers and homosexuals, to name but a few targets. It's impossible to pick a funniest scene -- A Fish Called Wanda is filled with classic comic moments: animal-loving Ken's emotional disintegration as his attempts to murder the witness result only in the deaths of the old lady's beloved dogs; Archie's exquisitively frustrating attempt to coax the name of a hotel out of stutterer Ken; the untimely return home of Archie's wife just as Wanda is seducing him; and Cleese performing what is probably the funniest striptease in film history. Monty Python alumni Cleese and Palin are expected to be funny, and they certainly deliver here, but one of several extraordinary attributes of this film is Kevin Kline's ability to hold his own in such august comedic company. His Otto is one of the most memorable and eccentric characters you're ever likely to find in a movie. For trivia fans, Cleese's real-life daughter Cynthia plays Archie's daughter Portia.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $63.5 million
US release date: 7.15.88

Academy Awards
Best Supporting Actor (Kevin Kline)

BAFTA Awards
Best Actor (John Cleese)
Best Supporting Actor (Michael Palin)

For Keeps
1988, Tri-Star, Rated PG-13

Molly Ringwald
Randall Batinkoff
Miriam Flynn

Directed by John G. Avildsen
Written by Denise DeClue & Tim Kazurinsky

Thanks in large part to Molly Ringwald, the "teenage movie" came into its own in the 1980s, rising above the mindless blather of all the Beach Party nonsense that came before. Ringwald is perhaps best known for her roles in Sixteen Candles (1984) as a sweet, sensitive 16-year-old suffering all the angst attending advancement into the realm of womanhood, and Pretty in Pink (1986) in which she plays a sweet, sensitive poor girl spurned by the preppy high-school clique. Directed by John Hughes, both films are commendable, as are Ringwald's performances in them. For Keeps seems a natural progression, as Ringwald portrays Darcy Elliot, a (sweet and sensitive) high-school senior whose breathless romance with Stan Bobrucz (Randall Batinkoff) is the stuff a young girl's dreams are made of. Until, that is, Darcy gets pregnant.
Unable to go through with an abortion, Darcy decides to keep the baby, and Stan, being the upright guy that he is, chooses to give up a full scholarship to CalTech, opting instead to marry Darcy and try to make a living. The young couple gets no help from their parents; in fact, Darcy's mother (Miriam Flynn) is so embittered where men are concerned that she almost succeeds in wrecking her daughter's marriage. Ringwald and Batinkoff are thoroughly believable as kids who have to grow up too quickly in a film that is all about consequences and responsibility. In reviewing another exceptional "teen flick" of the Eighties, Can't Buy Me Love, we recommended it as mandatory viewing for all high school kids, The message of For Keeps, a heartwarming morality tale in which love conquers all, requires us as hopeless romantics to do likewise in this case.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $17.5 million
US release date: 1.15.88

48 Hrs.
1983, Paramount, Rated R

Nick Nolte
Eddie Murphy
James Remar

Directed by Walter Hill
Written by Roger Spottiswoode, Walter Hill, Larry Gross & Steven E. de Sousa

When he made his film debut in 48 Hrs., Eddie Murphy was largely an unknown property, having only recently begun his stint on Saturday Night Live. He proved he has an abundance of screen presence -- no mean feat considering that his co-star, Nick Nolte, has a lot of it himself. Nolte plays Jack Cates, a gruff, hard-as-nails police detective out to capture an escaped convict-cop killer named Ganz (played with delightful villainy by James Remar). To do that he needs the help of another convict, one of Ganz's former partners, a slick, wisecracking, two-bit criminal named Reggie Hammond (Murphy.) Reggie is willing to help because he knows Ganz is after a half million dollars in stolen loot that is hidden in the trunk of Hammond's car. Cates wrangles permission to spring Reggie from jail for 48 hours, and this unlikely pair develops a grudging respect for one another as they troll the city's mean streets in search of Ganz. It's adult fare, with plenty of profanity and gunplay, not to mention insults and one-liners galore -- but thanks to the superior directing skills of Walter Hill, a protege of action flick maestro Sam Peckinpah, and the writing talents of Roger Spottiswoode, who would go on to direct Shoot To Kill (1988), Air America (1990) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), the film is elevated above your average cops-and-robbers flick. The action scenes are realistic and thrilling, the character development is solid, and the pace is breathless. Nolte's performance is first-rate, while Murphy looks only occasionally like a rookie. 48 Hrs. set a fairly high standard for all the buddy flicks that would come after, and was not surpassed until the Gibson/Glover teaming in 1987's Lethal Weapon.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $75.9 million
US release date: 12.8.82

"New Shoes," The Busboys (& more)

Fresh Horses
1988, Columbia, Rated PG-13

Andrew McCarthy
Molly Ringwald
Ben Stiller

Directed by David Anspaugh
Written by Larry Ketron

Matt Larkin (Andrew McCarthy) is an up-and-coming architecture student who is engaged to a beautiful debutante. Matt's best friend (Ben Stiller), hauls him off to a home in the country where, reportedly, there is always a party going on. Matt meets Jewel (Molly Ringwald), a seductive country girl, and falls head over heels. He breaks his engagement, ignores his studies, alienates his friends in his pursuit of the elusive Jewel -- only to find, once he's burned all his bridges, that Jewel has not been straight with him. It turns out that she is not 20 (as she told him), but younger, and not single (as she implied), but married. The relationship becomes a nightmare for Matt. Who does he believe -- his friends, who try to convince him that Jewel is just using him to escape a life of rural poverty, or Jewel, who says she loves him? In the end, Matt helps Jewel escape a loveless marriage, but loses her in the process. It seems the gap between yuppie and country girl is too wide for love to bridge.
It wasn't a bad idea to reunite McCarthy and Ringwald, the stars of the hit film Pretty In Pink. McCarthy does a fine job as a young man, who, as the film opens, has his life in order, only to watch helplessly as it disintegrates in the heat of his passion for Jewel. And Ringwald, as always, is a pleasure to watch, even though she isn't given enough screen time to fully develop an extremely complex, troubled character. The problem with Fresh Horses is one it shares with almost all other films that deal with a doomed love affair. Presumably, every viewer has known such a relationship -- one that seemed so right and yet so wrong, a dilemma with an unattainable solution, so that all one can do is be a helpless bystander and watch it unravel. It's an unpleasant experience, and, ultimately, so is Fresh Horses.

Eighties Club rating: **

US box office: $6.6 million
US release date: 11.18.88

1986, Orion, Rated R

Bryan Brown
Brian Dennehy
Diane Venora

Directed by Robert Mandel
Written by Gregory Fleeman & Robert T. Megginson

Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown) is a movie special effects (F/X) man in great demand for his imaginative work in bloody-minded feature films. But when a federal agent asks him to fake the murder of mob boss Nick DeFranco (Jerry Orbach) so that the G-men can keep DeFranco hidden long enough for him to testify against his former organized crime associates, Rollie plunges into a vortex of danger and doublecross. He's accused of the murder of DeFranco and stalked by crooked feds. In the process, his actress girlfriend (Diane Venora) is slain. Without giving too much away, it's all part of a scheme that involves $15 million in ill-gotten gains socked away in a Swiss bank account. A crafty and cantankerous cop, Lt. Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy), who has long been after DeFranco, is assigned to investigate his "murder" but is quick to smell a rat. Question is, can Rollie elude all the people trying to catch or kill him long enough to use his unique skills to uncover the real culprits?
Directed by Robert Mandel and filmed in New York City, F/X is a clever thriller enhanced by the presence of Aussie star Bryan Brown (Breaker Morant, The Thorn Birds) as well as the considerable talents of Brian Dennehy and Broadway vet Jerry Orbach. For its time, the special effects are superior, and that's not surprising since they were the responsibility of John Stears, who had worked on Star Wars, makeup artist Carl Fullerton, who would do great work in several Friday the 13th sequels, among other films. These assets make the implausibility of parts of the script pardonable sins. For instance, Rollie -- who seems scared to death, as any normal person would be, when confronted by his girlfriend's assassin -- becomes a coldly efficient killing machine in the final denouement just hours later. And neither he nor Lt. McCarthy appear at all conscience-stricken when they make off, in the end, with the $15 million. But then, this is a movie where almost no one is who he appears to be. It would spawn a 1991 sequel also starring Brown and Dennehy, as well as a TV series (1996-98), and for a while it would make Brown a much sought after leading man in Hollywood, propelling him into starring roles in 1988's Cocktail and Gorillas in the Mist.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $20.6 million
US release date: 2.7.86

"The Heart Of Rock And Roll," Huey Lewis & The News
"Just An Illusion," Imagination