The Deadly Art of Illusion! Bryan Brown (Far East) and Brian Dennehy (Gorky Park) are back as Rollie and Leo in an all-new action-thriller that continues the F/X saga with stylish wit, unrelenting suspense and amazing high-tech action. Five years after his first deadly adventure, Rollie Tyler (Brown) has left the special effects business and now designs sophisticated electronic toys for a living. But when his girlfriend's ex-husband, a police detective, persuades him to devise an illusion to capture a serial killer, Rollie is once again lured into the lethal world of make-believe. And soon, he finds himself trapped in a murderous maze of deceit and treachery in which he must depend on his ingenious tricks and his friendship with detective Leo McCarthy (Dennehy) to expose a terrifying underworld conspiracy... but only if he can stay alive! Cult filmmaker Richard Franklin (Psycho II, Road Games) directed this top-notch sequel that features a strong cast including Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall), Joanna Gleason (Boogie Nights), Philip Bosco (The Dream Team) and Kevin J. O Connor (Color of Night).
The original F/X was one of those movies that did just okay during its theatrical run, but thanks to the world of home video in late 1980s became popular enough to warrant a sequel. Instead of trying to make the second story as gritty as the first, the follow-up was toned down to aim for a PG-13 rating and designed to be one of the first big summer movie releases of 1991. The ploy worked, as the film opened in the number one spot its opening weekend, but soon floundered at the box office thereafter, and wound up being considered one of that year's theatrical disappointments. Still, as sequels go, 'F/X 2' is a pretty entertaining one, although that has less to do with the storyline and more to do with the return of actors Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy in the lead roles.
The last time we saw Rollie Tyler (Brown) and Leo McCarthy (Dennehy), they had just snuck off with $15 million in mob money and supposedly would spend the rest of their lives both rich and in hiding. As 'F/X 2' begins, however, Rollie is living in New York City with a new girlfriend (Rachael Ticotin) and her son (Dominic Zamprogna – who is now all grown up and a star on the ABC soap 'General Hospital'). He's no longer in the movie business, but instead using his special effects stills to make high-end toys for kids. No mention of the $15 million from the first movie is ever made in this sequel. Rollie's girlfriend has an ex-husband, Mike (Tom Mason), who is a cop, and – sure enough – a case comes up where Mike needs Rollie's help to try and nab a bad guy.
The sting operation that Rollie is asked to help out with is supposed to stop a criminal from killing a model he's threatened. Instead, a second man arrives on the scene and kills Mike. Not long after the murder, Rollie realizes that police chief Ray Silak (Philip Bosco) is involved in a cover-up, and soon the same assassin who offed Mike is after Rollie and his new family. It is at about this point in the movie that Leo shows up to help his old friend out.
The basic premise of 'F/X 2' isn't that far removed from the original: once again a job by Rollie leads him into trouble, once again there's a law enforcement officer who is involved in criminal activity, and once again – as the second half of this movie reveals – there's a mob tie-in to all the dastardly deeds. But even though the film feels familiar, it still manages to deliver a whole lot of fun. Sure, the filmmakers stretch believability to get their characters into set ups where the movie can have Rollie use his F/X skills (my favorite is when he squares off against the assassin trailing him in a grocery store), but those scenes have so much energy to them, you forgive the movie for its leaps of logic.
The filmmakers also know what a gem of an actor they have in Brian Dennehy and give him much more to do this second time around. Although it takes a good 40 minutes before he actually shows up in the movie, from that point forward he's as much this film's star as Brown is and is probably the main reason 'F/X 2' succeeds as a sequel.
In terms of logic and plot comprehension, 'F/X 2' is inferior to the original movie. However, in terms of sheer energy and fun, 'F/X 2' is the superior film. This is one of those movies where the chemistry of the two lead actors and their on-screen likability goes a long way in one's enjoyment of the film. Brown and Dennehy are the real reason – perhaps the only reason – to tune into 'F/X 2', but they're good enough that this release is still worth adding to your collection.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'F/X 2' appears on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the 25GB single-layer disc. There are no front-loaded trailers on the Blu-ray, whose main menu is a still of the same image that is on the box cover, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
'F/X 2' was shot on film and arrives on Blu-ray presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. All in all this is an okay transfer – mostly free of any dirt or debris (although a bit pops up every now and again) and providing a nice color palette throughout. Grain is present, but has been pushed to the background so it's never obtrusive. However, with that in mind, the overall video quality is pretty flat looking. There's clarity, but there's never really the kind of sharpness or pop one expects in an HD release. The picture here is about the same in quality as Kino's release of the original F/X, even though that movie is five years older than this one.
Details are average, although in some sequences they're quite good – as in the scene involving Rollie and his new family having to evade an assassin in a mall grocery store. Darker scenes struggle a bit more with detail, but overall the black levels here aren't bad…not exactly inky deep, but also not causing a lot of crush or making items hard to distinguish. Skin tones are also consistent, although – again – detail isn't exactly razor-sharp.
Overall, this is one of those transfers that doesn't really 'wow', but also doesn't have any major technical issues with it that will distract viewers. It's about on par with most of the releases I've seen coming from Kino Lorber these days.
The only audio option here is a 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track that comes off quite well, despite its stereo limitations. There's a nice and apparent separation between the two front speakers, which not only can be heard when the musical soundtrack is present in the movie, but also during some of the film's action pieces. Dialogue is clear as well, and without a hint of muddiness to it. So while this isn't the type of audio track that will show off one's speaker set-up, it's certainly adequate enough for a release like this and one buyers of this title should be pleased with.
English subtitles are available.
'F/X 2' is a little more formulaic that the original movie, but it's still a whole lot of fun to watch. The plot may be standard stuff for a buddy action film, but Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy are so appealing in their roles, it's actually a shame they never teamed up again. Recommended.