Tag Archives: Orion Pictures

Robocop 2 (1990, Irvin Kershner)

I remember in 1991, when I was visiting a friend and he showed me the Robocop movies (there were only two at the time, of course)–I’m tempted to go on a tangent about when one could still show someone movies… you kind of lose that opportunity with adulthood, then you just get to recommend. Anyway, after watching the two films, I commented the villains were better in the first one. He responded, “You read that in a review.” And now I’m writing it in one.

There are three major problems with Robocop 2. First, the villains. They aren’t as good, even though many of them are well-acted by their performers. It’s actually a cheap list item, because it so directly relates to the second major problem. Robocop 2 has little to do with Robocop. There are attempts to give Robocop a story in the film, but they stop pretending after a while, during the long sequences he’s off-screen all together. Robocop 2 is more about the bad guys than the hero, who’s possible journey is knee-capped in the first fifteen or twenty minutes. Robocop’s an inherently tragic figure–he’s the hero who never gets a reward–and the film would rather ignore him than deal with him.

The third problem has, big shock, a lot to do with the first two problems. Nothing really happens for the first hour. Nothing really good anyway. The first hour is spent engineering the second hour, allowing for the scenes to take place. Obviously, a plot complicates and a plot progresses, but Robocop 2’s script is pretty incompetent in terms of plotting. The lousy villains are also the script’s fault, specifically Frank Miller’s, who’s done enough work (and had his original script adapted to a comic book) to have the blame easily assigned. I’m not sure if it’s his fault Robocop 2 isn’t about Robocop… it might have something more to do with the first film being incapable of providing an easy sequel.

Now for the good. Irvin Kershner is a sturdy director. He doesn’t get to really shine until the big action ending–when it’s a mix of Kershner’s direction, Phil Tippett’s unbelievably wonderful stop motion, and Leonard Rosenman’s score. The film also takes forever to have any action scenes of merit–script’s fault–with most of the early ones being boring, unimaginative shootouts (contrived to progress the plot as conveniently as possible).

Peter Weller’s good as Robocop, though he’s got very little to do throughout the film. Nancy Allen kind of hangs out in a practical cameo (Patricia Charbonneau–in an uncredited performance–has more resonance). Tom Noonan’s good as the villain, Gabriel Damon’s good as the evil Frank Miller kid villain. The corporate villains, Belinda Bauer, Dan O’Herlihy, Jeff McCarthy and, in particular, Felton Perry, are all good.

The film has very little to do with the first one–it’s a sequel to the first film’s success, rather than the characters and their struggles in it–but it’s well-produced.

The grand action finale is amazing to see. Robocop 2 becomes a monster-on-the-loose movie all of a sudden and Kershner produces a great sequence. It’s also at night, one of the film’s few scenes at night… it really helps. In fact, it closes so well, one can almost (but not really) forget the first hour of the film.



Directed by Irvin Kershner; screenplay by Frank Miller and Walon Green, based on a story by Miller and characters created by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Deborah Zeitman, Lee Smith and Armen Minasian; music by Leonard Rosenman; production designer, Peter Jamison; produced by Jon Davison; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Peter Weller (RoboCop), Nancy Allen (Anne Lewis), Jeff McCarthy (Holzgang), Felton Perry (Donald Johnson), Daniel O’Herlihy (The Old Man), Belinda Bauer (Juliette Faxx), Tom Noonan (Cain), Gabriel Damon (Hob), Galyn Gorg (Angie), Mario Machado (Casey Wong), Leeza Gibbons (Jesse Perkins), Roger Aaron Brown (Whittaker), Mark Rolston (Stef), Willard Pugh (Mayor Kuzak), Robert DoQui (Sergeant Reed) and Stephen Lee (Duffy).



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.



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).


Everybody Wins (1990, Karel Reisz)

What a weird movie. Debra Winger cannot act. Don’t know exactly why Terms of Endearment worked, but she cannot act. She’s really terrible in this one. Arthur Miller adapted his play, which was from 1982–except it was a one act play. Somewhere in the adaptation, Everybody Wins becomes a ludicrous attempt at a thriller. It’s set in a Connecticut town, which looks a lot like Pennsylvania in the film, and Reisz gives the setting absolutely no personality.

Winger convinces Nick Nolte to investigate a case, except she’s a total flake and doesn’t tell him anything about the case until the last fifteen minutes. So, right away, it’s unbelievable for Nolte, playing a renowned investigator, would put up with Winger. Most of their scenes involve her hiding something from him, but he sticks around… because if he left, it’d be a one act movie. Will Patton shows up for a bit and he’s fine. He and Nolte have an interesting relationship for a few scenes. Poor Jack Warden stuck in a nothing role, just to pop in whenever you’ve forgotten he’s in the movie.

It’s not really a case of the film being predictable, but once some of the clues come out, it’s unbelievable Nolte the investigator wouldn’t piece anything together. Except he pieces absolutely nothing together–in the entire film–which dismisses it as a mystery or detective film. There’s no real jeopardy involved, so it’s not a thriller either. Winger’s so terrible it’s not a romance. The film’s only interesting with Nolte and Patton and Nolte and Judith Ivey, who plays his sister (the character’s got an interesting history, but none of it, apparently, gets to come through in the film).

I’ve seen Reisz and Nolte’s other collaboration, Who’ll Stop the Rain, and I guess Everybody Wins is better. Everybody Wins is shorter and, for the first half, it’s just boring, not particularly bad. In fact, I think some of the beginning might even be good. Nolte’s does a good job, but it’s definitely one of his autopilot performances. Reisz has some good moments (just can’t make the setting stick until the end, when it’s too late to fix the film). There’s even homage to Who’ll Stop the Rain, which I can’t believe anyone would pick up on, but who knows, maybe there’s somebody else out there going through all of MGM’s Nick Nolte releases too.



Directed by Karel Reisz; screenplay by Arthur Miller; director of photography, Ian Blake; edited by John Bloom; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Peter Larkin; produced by Jeremy Thomas; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Debra Winger (Angela Crispini), Nick Nolte (Tom O’Toole), Will Patton (Jerry), Judith Ivey (Connie), Kathleen Wilhoite (Amy), Jack Warden (Judge Harry Murdoch), Frank Converse (Charlie Haggerty) and Frank Military (Felix).