The F*ckin Black Sheep: F/X (1986)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021


THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

F/X (1986)
Directed by Robert Mandel

"My main complaint about F/X is how silly it all ends up being"

Sometimes when diving back into something unexperienced for a long ass time, results can be mixed. When finished, you either end up filled with rejuvenated excitement from your youth or become fully aware of its flaws and wonder what the hell was wrong with you back in the day. Obviously, not every film creates such black and white results, but its amazing how often that can occur. Case in point: 1986’s F/X.

No, not the channel, but the thriller about a Hollywood special effects man named Rollie who’s caught up in some deadly business when the feds recruit him to help stage the death of a mafia boss who has flipped. Unlucky for Rollie, it turns out he’s messing with some bad feds as they now want him dead to tie up loose ends. Then it’s a matter of staying alive at all costs using all those special effects skills that he’s learned.

Revisiting this film years and years after I first saw it, my main complaint about F/X is how silly it all ends up being. The idea that a New York mob boss needs a staged “execution” by a top-notch Hollywood effects man in order to enter the Witness Protection Plan seems silly..Why? Isn't that the point of the Protection Plan? To just…disappear? The other mob guys will know after he's forced to testify, otherwise, while would they strike a deal?

And if the bad feds don't want loose ends, why would the film begin with an agent approaching Rollie at work during a production in front of a crew of people? Wouldn't that create even more problems to offer Rollie a mysterious job there? Days later, when Rollie takes the gig and knocks off the mafia dude as planned, if they had killed Rollie wouldn’t more questions exist than worth anyone ever having to ask? Silliness.  

Directed Robert Mandel (who went on to direct TV gigs and movies like The SubstituteF/X stars Bryan Brown as Rollie, who was part of Aussie-mania of 1986 (Crocodile Dundee changed lives, man). Watching it now, I can only think of him as that drunk from Cocktail and, in fact, it left me wondering why the hell did they hire a thick-accented Aussie for a very American movie? Brown is decent in the role (he looks like Robert Englund twin), but it seems an odd choice. He was plenty good in Cocktail, but here he's over the top when not necessary. Sometimes even terrible. That battle with a hit man in his kitchen? He grunts worse than Schwarzenegger. Or when he's playing dress up in different costumes, it plays more like Peter Sellers in Pink Panther than anything in the long line of wrong man accused/set-up serious thrillers. 

The film has plenty of other stars. I can’t say anything bad about Brian Dennehy, who I always thought should have been in a hell of a lot more movies. He always exudes a relaxed yet confident vibe in any role, and does so here as a NYPD detective (with a fine stash) in charge figuring out just what the hell is going on. Then Nathan Arizona shows up as a cocky dick (Trey Wilson) in a small role, and tall odd ball Tom Noonan appears as a gangster. I do have to admit it’s pretty weird seeing Jerry Orbach as the mafia boss. Too many years in Law and Order to be seen as anything else.

F/X has moments, but it’s all too nutty (and the score is about as generic as possible). By the time credits roll, the film plays out like a more violent version of Home Alone with Rollie playing dress up and taking out bad guys with a series of elaborate…you guessed it, special effects.


Source: Arrow in the Head

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