Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Almost certainly a study, and in that sense worthwhile, both to the director and the audience, who get the thing re-enacted with altogether different actors (like Alan Ladd as Rick in Casablanca on Lux Radio Theater, enjoying his own sarcasm as he says to Victor Laszlo, “Why don’t you ask your wife?”).
What About Bob?
Several of the most brilliant and able comedians around are rather brought up short by this, the direction of which tends to abide the comic and favor the comical. John Simon could hardly be more acerbic than that, which certainly indicates I’m all turned around on this subject.
It might have been better if Carl Reiner had directed it, but then who would have taken it seriously? Actually, it’s the most devastating piece of satire aimed at Hollywood in a very long time (I say this forcefully to remind the critics, who should know better, that Hollywood Ending isn’t a satire at all).
The superblack action star is a paranoid lunatic “keeping it together” because his name is Kit, K-I-T. When you discount all the accounting mumbo-jumbo, says Bowfinger the would-be movie maven, “all films cost $2184 to make,” which is how much he has.
The idea is to have actors speak their lines to Kit in the street or the sidewalk café, and film his innocent responses as part of the action movie about space aliens he doesn’t know he’s in. Unfortunately, he’s all too ready for space aliens to drop in on him (he keeps plutonium in his house “for religious purposes”).
Robert Downey, Jr. plays a latter-day Irving Thalberg (he kept the car, his wife got the kids). Eddie Murphy calmly consumes several acres of black stereotypes and angles. Heather Graham plays an ingénue who gets off the bus and winds up meeting “the most powerful Lesbian in Hollywood.” Terence Stamp plays the head of Mind Head, where Kit goes when it’s falling apart.
The introduction of Kit’s nerdy brother Jifferson (also Murphy) enables the script to isolate a current development in Hollywood and all but give it a name: the production assistant as star (and production assistant).
The opening is a good gag, and the fade-to-black credits narrative is good, and after that comes a beautiful angled tracking shot on a level plane while Nick climbs a hilly Montréal street.
Ed Norton does a crippled newsie and later John Lennon. Marlon Brando shows he could have played Charlie Malloy. The film is Robert De Niro’s, and he waits for his punchline.
Above all, an analysis of Michael Winner’s The Mechanic, which clarifies that work admirably.