Incredibly, it’s Burl, here to review you a movie all about trick effects! It’s one of those 80s workhorse pictures – movies that came in and did their job efficiently and without complaint, but were in no sense classics! I’m thinking Remo Williams here, you know, Iceman! Stuff like that! Sure, Dreamscape! Anyway, that should give you a pretty good idea of what we’re talking about here, quality-wise!
But there are personal feelings wrapped up in this one too: I consider it a Movie of Shame! Ha ha, that’s not as serious as it sounds! But I was a young lad when this came out, ready to start thinking about the ladies! I bussed downtown to see a movie all by myself one winter’s night, and by chance met up with my good friend Matthew along the way! He was keeping company with two girls from our grade, whom I knew only slightly! (Matthew was a slight lad whose later coming out surprised no one, yet he always did very well with the ladies in junior high!) They were going to see Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which was playing at a theatre very nearby, and invited me to go along with them! With visions of the tempting stills printed in Fangoria magazine, I firmly said “No, I’m going to see F/X,” and, on thinking back, fancied that, at the moment of my principled rebuffal, I saw one of the young ladies pull a downcast look! In fact, she was no doubt simply stifling a sneeze! Whatever the case, I regretted for a long time after that that I didn’t go along with them! Why, I simply should have out of friendliness! (Actually, all of us probably should have just gone to see Hannah And Her Sisters! Ha ha!)
Well, if you’re Burl, that is the character of your regrets! But I watched the picture again the other day (still never have seen Down and Out in Beverly Hills) and it holds up as being exactly the sort of blandly competent action-suspense picture it always was! It begins with a scene in a restaurant where everybody gets machine-gunned, but, ha ha, it’s just a movie within the movie, and everybody was just acting, and the special blood-squib trick effects were done by Rollie, the trick-effects man everybody’s talking about! Ha ha, he’s played by Bryan Brown from Tai-Pan, and his ladyfriend is played by Diane Venora, a fine actor whom we recall from Wolfen!
Well, events escalate, Diane exits stage right, and is quickly replaced by the imposing form of Brian “Best Seller” Dennehy! It’s all got to do with weasely Cliff de Young, fresh from pictures like Protocol and Secret Admirer, who recruits Rollie for a very special task, which then goes all kapooniak and Rollie is on the run! Ha ha, and he’s driving a big gaudy van with "F/X" painted across the side in huge, bright faux-graffito! Way to keep a low profile, Rollie!
All sorts of familiar faces join in the action! We’ve got Jerry Orbach from Someone To Watch Over Me, Joe Grifasi from Brewster’s Millions, Trey Wilson from Drive-In and even Tom Noonan from The Monster Squad: these last two playing dogged assassin agents! The climax of the picture is in many ways familiar from all sorts of 80s lite-adventure movies: it’s a bunch of creeping around the bad guy’s mansion! But instead of shooting people, Rollie puts together a bunch of fatal trick effects to bamboozle and brutally eliminate his enemies!
So, was it worth giving up what I’d have cherished as an impromptu movie date at Down and Out in Beverly Hills? Ha ha, well I do remember enjoying it then, but now, with the lost date water over the dam, I can see it more clearly: a decent if silly entertainment, a little overstuffed with unnecessary scenes, suspenseful only in parts and then slightly, but engaging throughout nevertheless! I give F/X two unconvincing hobo outfits, ha ha!