Quick Takes: Fast Company, The Fly, Dead Ringers

fastcompany_1Fast Company (1979)
threehalfstar

Starring William Smith, Claudia Jennings, John Saxon, Nicholas Campbell, Don Francks, Cedric Smith, Judy Foster, Robert Haley, George Buza, David Graham, David Petersen
Directed by David Cronenberg

Just a few months before unleashing The Brood, Cronenberg released this love letter to drag racing. It is easily the least “Cronenbergian” film from him I’ve seen, but even if I didn’t go into it knowing he loved cars, Fast Company would’ve told me as much. The film’s cinematography is superb, capturing wonderful, wide vistas of the Canadian roadways, as well as close-up shots of gleaming engines, smoking tires and all kinds of other machinery. I was especially taken by an intense close-up of a spark plug gap being checked. Also of specific note is an in-car shot of a complete funny car run, with a timer on-screen to further add to the wow factor. I’m not an experienced fan of drag racing, so I was quite impressed with the speed and the precision with which everything is carried out. The film’s story is relatively cliched, and it gets super campy — AKA Fun! — as it goes along, but during the racing segments it actually feels closer to a documentary. It is real cars with real drivers doing some real racing, after all. I think it would be a fine choice for a rumbling double feature with Mad Max: Fury Road. Plus there’s a Springsteen-like theme song, what more can I ask for? Anyone that loves cars, specifically when they were hulking beasts of steel and thunder, should check this forgotten gem out.

theflyThe Fly (1986)
threehalfstar

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Leslie Carlson, George Chuvalo
Directed by David Cronenberg

As I worked my way through Cronenberg’s films, I was eager to re-visit his take on The Fly. It was the first Cronenberg film I saw (as a kid sometime in the late ’80s), and all I remember from that viewing was that I thought it was really weird. I didn’t know how to comprehend or process it. Then I watched it again about 10 years ago, and while I liked it a lot more that time, it still felt kind of emotionally cold and I couldn’t get into it completely. When I look back on these experiences after this most recent re-watch, I’m shocked at myself. The Fly is one of Cronenberg’s greatest achievements, and the FX work that slowly transforms Jeff Goldblum into the Brundlefly is absolutely exquisite. My journey with the film is a testament to re-watching films at different ages; the Brundlefly may evolve rather quickly, but it takes much longer for a human such as myself. Sometimes you see a film too early for it to resonate, and thankfully when I watched it this time it felt exactly right.

deadringersDead Ringers (1988)
threehalfstar

Starring Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold, Heidi von Palleske, Barbara Gordon, Shirley Douglas, Stephen Lack
Directed by David Cronenberg

Dead Ringers is an interesting film for Cronenberg to make directly after The Fly. Where that film went hard into the grotesque, Dead Ringers is reserved and intensely psychological. I must say that I prefer the methods of The Fly, but Dead Ringers succeeded in winning me over despite this. Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists, and it’s this absolutely riveting dual performance that glues you to the screen. Irons manages to create two distinct, believable characters, and Cronenberg somehow managed to often include them in the same shot without any hint of optical compositing or other visual trickery. It’s really something to see. Definitely a weird movie, though, so I don’t know who I’d recommend it to other than people who are already Cronenberg fans.

Men at Work (1990)

Starring Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Leslie Hope, Keith David, Dean Cameron, John Getz, Hawk Wolinski, John Lavachielli, Geoffrey Blake, Cameron Dye

Directed by Emilio Estevez

Expectations: Super low.


While watching Weekend at Bernie’s, my girlfriend commented that the film made her think of Men at Work, and that she would like to see it again. I had never seen it, so I quickly acquired it for review. Now having seen it, I can clearly see why Weekend at Bernie’s brought it to mind. For a good portion of the film, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen and Keith David are carrying around a dead man. And in one scene, they even pretend he’s alive and move his limbs for him to fool someone! As the two films came out in close proximity to each other (about a year separated them), I have to imagine Men at Work was in production long before Bernie’s dropped, but I can imagine Estevez’s despair at the success of the “other movie that features a couple of schlubs carting around a dead man.” I’m sure he thought he had the corner on that darkly comic market when he was crafting this script.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Men at Work is about two garbage men who get unknowingly mixed up in a web of illegal dumping and must “take out the trash,” where the trash is a greedy business owner dumping chemicals into the ocean. When said asshole kills the one man with evidence against him, instead of entrusting the disposal of the body to two fantastic assassins, he gives the job to a couple of ’80s nincompoops that bungle the job accordingly. That’s not our heroes, though, they’re the guys that find the body in the morning while collecting the trash. Thing is, due to some strange circumstances they know who the guy is, and don’t wish to reveal his death to the police.

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