F/X (1986) ***
Directed by Robert Mandel. Written by Gregory Fleeman, Robert T. Megginson. Photography, Miroslav Ondricek. Editing, Terry Rawlings. Production design, Mel Bourne. Music, Bill Conti. Cast: Bryan Brown, Brian Dennehy, Diane Venora, Cliff De Young, Mason Adams, Jerry Orbach, et al.
The initials stand for "special effects" in movie-making. Simpatico Australian actor Bryan Brown, an F/X wizard, gets talked by Witness Relocation people in the Justice Department into staging a fake murder. It's a juicy though deja vu idea but before Brown knows it (not before you, the audience, know it, since you have seen other flicks) the man is in a messy mesh of multiple crossings. The action is fast, furious and quite engrossing. The film is a nice catalogue of what F/X can do for its hero in distress . Trouble is that the movie's real life is not real: the adventures and manhunts (including one that tries to outdo Car Chases We Have Known) are arresting but too chaotic; the twists are arbitrary ; the whys, hows and whats are far too improbable; the exploits with F/X are such quick magic that they strains even your suspension of disbelief. We are aeons away from Alfred Hitchcock's clean filmmaking that also gives a chance for characters to develop. Even so, F/X plays pleasantly, but only as a rushed, superficial thriller. Still, it is one of the best movies directed by Robert Mandel, along with "School Ties" of 1992.
An interesting note: the movie was the third of six co-produced by the millionaire Dodi Fayed who died in Paris (1997) along with Princess Di, in history's most famous car-crash.