Tag Archives: Jerry Orbach

F/X (1986, Robert Mandel)

About ten minutes in to F/X, I got wondering how the film was going to deal with being a special effects-filled film about a guy doing special effects for films. I suppose they didn’t have to deal with that relationship, but it kept seeming more and more like they were going to need to address it. Then, at the end, rather simply, they did. It’s a quick “thank you” at the end of the film to the audience. Movies tend not to do the ending “thank you” anymore (Ocean’s Twelve coming the closest in recent memory) because it’s an acknowledgment of the film’s unreality… it probably has a lot to do with films being more centered towards the eventual home video market as opposed to the theatrical experience. An ending “thank you” for watching is definitely a theatrical consideration (I mean, doesn’t Predator even thank its audience?).

Anyway, the ending brings F/X up a little bit, because the film’s a narrative mess (it also has the most obvious stuntmen I can remember seeing in a long time). It has a solid opening, great first twenty minutes, maybe even twenty-five, then the narrative splits between Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy. Brown goes from being the protagonist to the subject for half his scenes and the others are action scenes–and good action scenes–so he’s sort of lost. The Dennehy arc is great stuff (though incredibly unrealistic), with Joe Grifasi as his sidekick.

The film’s really well-paced, given all those narrative difficulties, and it’s a constant pleasure to watch. The experience stems from three things, audio and visual. First, Robert Mandel is a good director. He knows how to frame a shot, he knows how to have it lighted and he knows how to have scenes put together (Terry Rawlings’s editing has some outstanding moments–there’s also some scenes where it appears he cut too early, like the dialogue was interrupted for running time, but then I realized it was a stylistic choice and a fine one). F/X looks great from that department, but also because it’s an on location New York movie. Lots of great stuff to show off why New York is the best city to shoot a movie in. Third, and probably most important tying together points one and two: Bill Conti’s score. From the opening credits, Conti establishes his importance to the film and he keeps it up throughout. Conti’s filmography is spotty in terms of film quality, but he does amazing work here.

While Brown is good as the lead, his character–after the story’s moving–rarely has any time to reflect on what’s happened. It’s a little off-putting, but F/X actually has some wonderful subtle moments to take care of those deficiencies. Dennehy’s great. Brian Dennehy could sell real estate on Jupiter and make it believable. Supporting wise… Grifasi’s okay, Cliff De Young’s real good–particularly in the first twenty minutes, which appear to have had tighter revisions–Jerry Orbach’s funny, Jossie DeGuzman’s scenes are all good… The real acting champ, besides Dennehy, is Diane Venora. Her role’s relatively small, but she’s fantastic.

However long the laundry list of problems, F/X is still a fine diversion. And an exceptionally effective one, thanks to the fine production values.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Mandel; written by Robert T. Megginson and Gregory Fleeman; director of photography, Miroslav Ondricek; edited by Terry Rawlings; music by Bill Conti; produced by Dodi Fayed and Jack Wiener; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Bryan Brown (Rollie Tyler), Brian Dennehy (Leo McCarthy), Diane Venora (Ellen), Cliff De Young (Lipton), Mason Adams (Col. Mason), Jerry Orbach (Nicholas DeFranco), Joe Grifasi (Mickey), Martha Gehman (Andy), Roscoe Orman (Capt. Wallenger), Trey Wilson (Lt. Murdoch), Tom Noonan (Varrick), Paul D’Amato (Gallagher) and Jossie DeGuzman (Marisa Velez).


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Delusion (1991, Carl Colpaert)

Delusion opens poorly. It opens like an independent film (not a Miramax release or a Fox Searchlight, but something a guy who owns a chain of car washes invested in) and it opens poorly, like most independent films open. The acting is bad, the writing is bad (the direction is fine). I’ve seen Delusion before (I own the laserdisc), probably four times and the opening had me embarrassed. Based on those first seven or eight minutes, I would have said Jim Metzler was bad and Jennifer Rubin was bad, and Kyle Secor was good. Secor’s got a really goofy, dumb hit man role and then, at times, the character will all of a sudden have some profoundly affecting moment.

Anyway, by the fifteen-minute mark, Delusion‘s completely different. Rubin’s great, Metzler’s great and the writing’s good. There’s no distinguishable reason for the change, except maybe the first act ended or something. Then for an hour, the film’s on track toward something, with all goodness along the way. Where it’s going is never quite clear–so, in the end, where it ends up feels a little odd, with the characters talking to each other about things the viewer should have seen and should understand, but did not see and does not understand.

Another possible reason for the big change is Carl Colpaert’s direction. He really knows how to move a camera, whether Delusion‘s in its thriller mode, its drama mode, or its spaghetti western mode, Colpaert’s composition is really unbelievably good. Especially for an independent film. He knows how to use Panavision. That knowledge is rare among independent filmmakers.

Colpaert and co-writer Kurt Voss run Delusion as a road movie with the little adventures as vignettes. The most successful is the one with Jerry Orbach, who’s absolutely fantastic. The worst–the one where Delusion becomes a Miramax independent for a moment–is when a female biker picks up Metzler and tells him about her time as a soldier in the sexual revolution. Amusingly, it’s like Colpaert realized how badly it played, because it really seems like that section is cut all over.

In the end, it’s really all about Rubin. She’s funny, sad, thoughtful, tragic, smart, dumb; Colpaert and Voss throw all these things at her and she comes out shining. Watching the film, it’s difficult to believe she never made it big, because there was no one else back then who could do all the things she could do.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Carl Colpaert; written by Colpaert and Kurt Voss; director of photography, Geza Sinkovics; edited by Mark Allan Kaplan; music by Barry Adamson; production designer, Ildiko Toth; produced by Daniel Hassid; released by I.R.S. Releasing Corporation.

Starring Jim Metzler (George O’Brien), Jennifer Rubin (Patti), Kyle Secor (Chevy), Jerry Orbach (Larry) and Robert Costanzo (Myron Sales).


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