At the beginning of "FX2: The Deadly Art of Illusion" there's an elaborate movie stunt where a crassly phony alien blows up a couple of cop cars and gets half his head blasted away by a shotgun shell.
Our hero, former movie effects genius Rollie Tyler, sniffs, "Typical shlock."
Perhaps it was. The problem is, I would have rather seen that movie than the one I did see; it looked pretty neat.
Even by the lame standards of sequel culture, "FX2" is dreary stuff.
The original, in which Bryan Brown played the clever special effects wizard and Brian Dennehy a smart New York cop, was full of dazzling movie tricks, but what made it stand out was the chemistry between the two stars.
On their own neither of these guys has really made it big-time. Together, they were a buddy picture -- which became a modest hit, as Dennehy and Brown squabbled and picked on each other with considerable amounts of charm and energy.
"FX2" has their chemistry, which remains potent; but it has nothing else.
To begin with, it has been moved away from the film world. Rollie has given up being a special effects guy; he's a custom toy maker living in a New York loft filled with gizmos that go buzz and click but wholly lack charm.
Take the baked bean gun, for example. Yes. Beans as weapons. Kaboom, and the bad guy falls screaming to earth, smothered in a cloud of deadly bean shrapnel.
The plot is hapless and incredible. Rollie's wife's ex-husband is a cop who enlists Rollie's aid in trapping a serial killer. The scam involves luring the murderer to a woman's apartment, where the cop will be waiting. Except the cop gets killed and Rollie suspects that there's more afoot than the investigating officers will admit. Thus, he enlists Leo's aid.
Brian Dennehy is a national treasure, of course; but seeing his bluff Irish heartiness and utter conviction wasted in a movie this stupid is like seeing the flag that flew over Fort McHenry cut up for Harborplace trinkets. It seems a sacrilege.
Dennehy is so likable he almost makes the movie work. But the "toy maker" gimmick keeps destroying the picture, as when Rollie's toy sub comes up to the dock and a bad sentry leans over to see what it is and it shoots out a little bolt that knocks him out cold! The film is front loaded with dopey little tricks like that, meant to be interesting but being merely ludicrous.
The plot, eventually, comes to swirl around some missing Vatican coins, minted by Michelangelo after his preliminary work on the Sistine Chapel. Yes: the movie turns the world's greatest artist into a hack for the Franklin Mint! "FX2" turns everything cheap.
'FX2: The Deadly Art
of Illusion' Starring Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy.
Directed by Richard Franklin.