Every day is a good day for another great eighties movie. This time we will be talking about F/X: Murder by Illusion, a very original and entertaining blend of action and comedy. I keep going back to these movies and each time I’m blown away by their atmosphere, sturdiness, and authenticity. Get this, they hire a special effects guy to fake a mobster’s murder. And by they, I mean the Justice Department. Have you ever heard a story like this?
Have you seen any movies with special effects artists in a lead role? I’m guessing the answer is no but don’t worry, Rollie is here. And in case you’re wondering, yes, various governmental agencies did approach the F/X guy who worked on this movie, John Stears to fake all kinds of stuff for them. And why not? The concept is simply ingenious and it fucking works. And Stears is an Oscar-winning special effects artist who also worked on a number of James Bond movies.
Well, I think that now that cryptic title F/X: Murder by Illusion is starting to make more sense. I remember watching this movie as a kid and simply loving it. Especially that big furry monster Rollie has in his hallway. It looked so scary to me back then. The cast is led by charismatic Bryan Brown and opposite of him, we have Brian Dennehy as the tough-as-nails cop looking for answers. They wanted Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford in lead roles and if they were cast, I’m sure this movie would already be a cult classic. Still, Bryan and Brian did a terrific job.
Meet Roland Tyler, a special effects guy primarily focusing on the horror genre. Talented and skilled, Roland meets Lipton, a guy working for the Justice Department on the set of his latest movie. Lipton offers him a job for which he will get $30.000 if he can pull it off. He just needs to fake the murder of a high-ranking mafia guy who’s going into a witness protection program. Roland accepts the offer not knowing just how dangerous that decision will be.
Not only F/X: Murder by Illusion is both entertaining and fast-paced but it’s also surprisingly intelligent. Some of the twists are really clever and I didn’t see them coming. However, if you look at the movie as a whole, it’s still your classic eighties action movie. It just has a couple of really effective gimmicks that make it that much more fun. It spawned a sequel that focuses even more on special effects and various contraptions but doesn’t deliver the as convincing story as this one did.
Here, simply everything works. Character development was spot on, the story gets increasingly interesting and we even get a couple of great action sequences. Also, all of this culminates in one hell of a finale. What more to want from a cool eighties thriller? I know that some of the charm that this movie had is long gone thanks to modern special effects. This was not the case in the eighties when you really had no idea how certain practical effects are made.
Director: Robert Mandel
Writers: Robert T. Megginson, Gregory Fleeman
Cast: Bryan Brown, Brian Dennehy, Diane Venora, Cliff De Young, Jerry Orbach, Mason Adams
Fun Facts: Bullitt and The French Connection were the inspiration for action sequences.