Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: February 7, 1986
DIRECTOR: Robert Mandel
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Miroslav Ondricek
WRITERS: Gregory Fleeman, Robert T. Megginson
MUSIC: Bill Conti
I wanted to watch “F/X” simply because when I was growing up, I would see bits and pieces of this this movie on TV. For whatever reason, cable channels loved this movie at the time. I thought that it would be a good to take another look at this unique film from the 1980s.
Right from the start, the movie features a scene where a gunman enters a restaurant and starts shooting up the place. Bullets fly and giant fish tanks die until it is revealed that it is all an elaborate setup for a film within the film. The effects were done by none other than Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown), the best damn special-effects man in the business.
The problem is that the effects here are not really that good, thus giving you a bad first impression of the film. The movie is not the worst, but whether or not you will like it really depends on how you watch it. This is because the film is not a timeless classic as much as it is a film of its time.
After the lackluster opening scene, we soon learn that the state department wants to hire Rollie to stage the death of a mob boss (Jerry Orbach) that is set to turn on the rest of the organized underworld. Unfortunately, things turn ugly after the job is pulled off and Rollie is on the run by the people who hired him and don’t want any loose ends. Hot on his trail is a gruff yet determined detective named Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy), a man who also wants to get to the truth of what’s going on.
The performances from the cast are pretty good, including great character actors such as Orbach and Dennehy. Also, have you ever heard of an Australian actor named Bryan Brown? If you were born after the 1980s, I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t recognize the name.
In the ‘80s, he was trying to make his mark in Hollywood. This film and others including “Cocktail” put him on the map for a hot minute. To be honest, I see why he hit our radar as he turns in a pretty good performance of a man who is scared for his life yet has many tricks up his sleeves to get the upper hand on those that are trying to kill him.
The movie contains many unique action sequences including a particularly effective car chase where Rollie and his assistant use certain things in his truck to elude the cops. The movie was released during a time where practical effects were king and long before computers took over. It was fun seeing certain effects being applied to the story and there are one or two clever twists in the story along the way.
Ultimately, I personally enjoyed this film as an unintentional time capsule of the ‘80s but must admit that it hasn’t aged terribly well. Also, if you are not a fan of film history, old school practical-effects filmmaking or ‘80s films in general, then this one may not be for you.