Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Foul Play is a near-perfect blend of action, suspense, and comedy. There’s a wine cellar scene (Notorious), a shower curtain scene (Psycho), and an abortive strangulation scene (Dial M for Murder), plus other familiar tropes, like an unsuspecting bystander drawn into a murderous conspiracy (take your pick). Most of the film actually works as a straight-faced mystery, but much humor is derived from two-sided conversations in which both people have an entirely different understanding of what’s going on. The clever script also tows the line between serious dialogue and funny one-liners.
Goldie Hawn as Gloria is hilariously scattered in her confusion of how she ended up in this mess, and Chevy Chase as Tony actually proves he had potential as a romantic lead back in the day. Burgess Meredith gets more physical than most of his other roles as a former anthropologist/black belt/ landlord. But the funniest role goes to Dudley Moore as nervous weirdo Stanley Tibbets, whose extended cameo often steals the show. This was his first introduction to American audiences and gained him the popularity that led to 10 and Arthur.
There are several memorable encounters, such as the albino’s library ambush and the cruel yet humorous dwarf attack. By the end, the comedy ratchets up to some long, over-the-top sequences, like an elderly martial arts match and a thrilling, opera-laced race through the streets of LA (it’s technically not a car chase). The part with the Japanese couple in the back seat of the taxi ranks among the best comedic scenes ever.
It’s not quite perfect. The score is sometimes overly dramatic, probably to imitate a Hitchcock film, and the seemingly important film coveted by the bad guys is just ignored by the end, again most likely an intentional irony. Some unnecessary scenes could also have been cut, such as a totally pointless Scrabble game using obscenities. The labyrinthine plot contains a hole or two as well, such as why the albino didn’t kill Gloria when he repeatedly had the chance; plus, the final showdown with the albino is a tad underwhelming.
Nevertheless, Foul Play is a good film with splashes of greatness along the way. I love genre mashes as long as they’re not overly obscene, and Foul Play succeeds as both an homage and a great mystery in its own right.
Best line: (Japanese couple, near the end) “Kojak, bang, bang!” (you just have to see it)Artistry: 6 Characters/Actors: 8 Entertainment: 9 Visual Effects: 7 Originality: 7 Watchability: 9 Other (language): -1 TOTAL: 45 out of 60
Next: #169 – Wreck-It Ralph
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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