A movie special effects man is hired to fake a real-life mob killing for a witness protection plan, but finds his own life in danger.
The premise of 1986's 'F/X' is such a neat idea, it's actually surprising that no one came up with it before or that anyone else has been able to make a movie half as good since. At its heart, 'F/X' isn't a whole lot different from dozens of other action/crime dramas that film audiences were assaulted with during the decade of the 80s, but it's the angle the creators have taken here that has given the film a bit of cult status that has endured over the years.
The movie stars Bryan Brown as special effects wizard Rollie Tyler, who is considered the best F/X man in Hollywood. His bits of wizardry on set are so impressive, that he's approached by the Department of Justice for a very special job: they want him to fake the assassination of a prominent mob informant (played by Jerry Orbach), hoping that by faking his death they can keep the mafia from really killing him before he testifies at trial. At first, Rollie is reluctant to do the job, but after his contacts at the DOJ suggest going to a rival effects man to do the work, Rollie's ego gets the better of him and he agrees to pull off the stunt.
Part of what makes 'F/X' so engaging is that – much like Rollie's special effects work – nothing is what it appears to be. Naturally, the faked assassination doesn't go the way Rollie expected it to, and he soon finds himself on the wrong side of the law, running from both the bad guys and the police – who think he may actually be responsible for the 'murder'. Now he's forced to use his knowledge of effects to both save himself and help capture those responsible for framing him.
While the above would be more than enough plot for a typical action flick, the writers/producers do something very smart here and introduce a brand-new character about 45 or so minutes into the movie. He's police Lt. Leo McCarthy (played by Brian Dennehy), who becomes every bit as much of a lead as Brown's character is at this point in the film. McCarthy comes onto the case because he's been investigating the seemingly murdered mob man for years and now wants to find out what happened. It's not long before he's on Rollie's trail as well.
'F/X' isn't without its share of problems, however. A lot of the chase sequences in the movie have a very clichéd feel to them (only redeemed by their occasional use of effects props from Rollie), the bad guys here are typical 80s villians, and the few female roles in the film aren't very well-written or interesting. However, even though a lot of the supporting characters here aren't given a whole lot to do, there are solid performances throughout from most of the cast.
The sign of a good movie is how well it ages with time. With almost 30 years between now and 'F/X's original theatrical release, I think it's safe to say that this is a very good film indeed. It's nice to see the movie is finally getting an upgrade to the high definition format, and it's certainly worth adding to one's permanent collection.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'F/X' appears on Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc, with no inserts. There are no front-loaded trailers on the disc, whose main menu consists of a still black image of the 'F/X' logo against a white background, with menu selections along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
Kino Lorber Blu-ray releases have been pretty hit or miss when it comes to video quality, but I'm happy to report that this release offers up a fairly nice – if not quite pristine – transfer of the movie. While the opening credits suffer from some obvious motion jitter, the remainder of the movie looks quite nice, with bright but not oversaturated colors and a solid amount of detail – especially in outdoor daytime sequences. The transfer isn't in perfect shape however, as there's still noticeable dirt and debris on the print, although not to the point where it ever becomes a huge distraction. Black levels are decent, although far from inky deep. Short of Kino actually remastering the print, this is probably the best we could have hoped for, and – considering the original DVD release of F/X was non-anamorphic (a later double feature release of 'F/X' and its sequel was anamorphic, but the picture quality was pretty poor) – a really nice upgrade to home video.
The transfer is also free from any obvious issues with aliasing, banding, over-sharpening/obvious DNR use, and also maintains background grain, which is never excessively heavy but helps the movie retain a film-like look to it.
The only available audio here is an English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which sounds remarkably good, given the aural limitations of a stereo track. One can almost immediately hear how nice the audio is mixed during the opening scene of the film, which takes place in the rain. There's a noticable separation of sound here, and while it's hard for a stereo track to feel immersive in any way, as 2.0 tracks go, this is a pretty good one. Dialogue from the actors is clear and crisp, nicely balanced with the musical soundtrack and other background noises, and I could detect no problems with the audio, such as hissing or dropouts.
English subtitles are also provided.
A really innovative idea for an action/crime drama, 'F/X' is enhanced by both its originality and by two appealing performances by its lead actors, Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy. While it has aged a bit since its original debut in the mid-1980s, 'F/X' is still quite watchable and very entertaining. With a nice transfer here and a couple of decent bonus features, this one comes recommended.