Production Studio: Orion Pictures
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Theatrical Release: May 10, 1991
Blu-ray Release: December 8, 2015
Director: Richard Franklin
Reviewed By James M. Dubs
I’ll watch anything…including F/X 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion.
“F/X 2 is actually the kind of movie that rewards inattention. Sit quietly in the theater and watch it, and you will be driven to distraction by its inconsistencies and loopholes. But watch it on video, paying it half a mind, and you might actually find it entertaining.” – Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert was a genius. Considering my primary viewing experience for both F/X and F/X 2 growing up was on cable television and VHS, Ebert hits the nail right on the head with his concise commentary. Despite all of the problems, improbabilities, and flashy gimmicks, I have always really liked F/X 2 because it continues to be a fun little action thriller headlined by great character actors Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy.
Rollie Tyler (Brown) is a retired Hollywood special effects man who is spending his time developing high end toys. One of his recent creations is a “telemetry suit” which allows the suit wearer to control a life sized animatronic clown which Rollie has affectionately named “Bluey.” It’s preposterous stuff that threatens to pull the viewer right out of the picture, but Director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) helps create an atmosphere of such playful fun that you can kind of just roll with it.
Like in the original F/X, Rollie is approached by law enforcement to use his special brand of F/X skills, only this time to catch a killer. Rollie is hesitant, and you can understand why if you’ve seen the original, but he eventually agrees considering the person asking for his help is the ex-husband of his current girlfriend, and the father of the boy Rollie is helping to raise. During the sting operation, things go sideways and the ex-husband cop is murdered, but not all is what it seems. Rollie spots the real killer and this puts Rollie and his new family in immediate jeopardy. Facing no other options, Rollie calls his old friend Leo (Dennehy), an ex-cop turned Private Investigator, and the pair set out to catch a killer. However, the more involved they get they realize that the death of a cop is only the cover-up to a larger mystery.
F/X 2 represents the kind of action thriller that got regularly churned out in the latter 80s and early 90s; live action cartoons where the stakes are high and people rarely get killed in life threatening situations. Movies like the Lethal Weapon franchise share a link in their film DNA with F/X 2 and I’m not just speaking of the sultry saxophone soundtrack during the opening credits. Both series follow a pretty basic formula that focuses attention on the characterizations and the relationships between the actors. Plots are incredibly simplified, while the action set pieces are overtly complex. For example, the climax of F/X 2 plays like an adult version of Home Alone putting our two heroes into an incredibly deadly situation, but both carry the swagger as if they’re merely playing a prank. Rollie is able to set up complex effects to thwart the bad guys in an environment that they’ve just infiltrated. Can you say “Worst henchmen ever?”
And you know what else? I don’t really care. Because like the Lethal Weapon franchise, you watch F/X and F/X 2 to see Rollie and Leo kick ass and take down bad guys in creative and preposterous ways. Fortunately this time around screenwriter Bill Condon’s (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) script allows for more screen time between Rollie and Leo and we get to see Brown and Dennehy return to the rolls and have a blast. Dennehy especially hams it up during many scenes and you partly feel like you’re there in spirit with the team.
While F/X received a fair amount of financial and critical success in 1986, it took five years before F/X 2 hit the screen. By that time, shows like MacGyver (1985-1992) had saturated the market with the premise of a guy fighting bad guys using his ingenuity, and the ability to build anything out of anything. So considering Lethal Weapon did the buddy-cop movie better, and MacGyver had a firm hold of pop culture consciousness, it’s not surprising that F/X 2 was largely ignored or overlooked.
But F/X 2 is worth a look, even for just fun entertainment. You don’t have to watch F/X to enjoy F/X 2, but if you’re going to pick up one, why not the other?
Video & Audio Rating:
Cinematographer Victor J. Kemper has shot a lot of the movies we’ve grown up with and love. The long list includes Dog Day Afternoon, Cloak & Dagger, and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, to name a few. So it comes as no surprise when F/X 2 looks fantastic on blu-ray. Of course, credit must also be given to MGM and Kino Lorber for a strong transfer. The source material must have been very strong because blemishes and scratches are at a minimum, detail is crisp, and colors are vibrant and natural. If it weren’t for some of the early 90s technology and branding, you may not even notice the 25 year span between now and then.
Audio comes by way a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. The track is more than enough to deliver clean dialogue, some hefty boom during the few action sequences, and produce some decent surround elements if your home theater is equipped properly.
- Making Of Featurette: Running at about 6:30, this is a “by the numbers” press kit that has some interviews with the stars and gives a little bit of background into the making of the film. At 6 minutes you’re not going to learn a lot, but what is here proves entertaining and informative.
- F/X Trailer
- F/X 2 Trailer
F/X 2 is perfectly acceptable Hollywood escapism. What makes it so effortless to watch is the great chemistry between Brown and Dennehy and a fun and exciting atmosphere. There is some brief nudity and a few swear words earning it a very soft PG-13, but other than that F/X 2 is full of absurd gimmicks that make it safe, plain fun. It’s the kind of movie that one might stop down and watch on cable…if you still have cable. But why wait for cable? Kino Lorber has created two very nice blu-rays with new picture and sound at a reasonable price point. So why not make it a double feature?