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A movie special effects man is hired to fake a real-life mob killing for a witness protection plan, but finds his own life in danger.
For more about F/X and the F/X Blu-ray release, see F/X Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 26, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bryan Brown, Brian Dennehy, Diane Venora, Martha Gehman, Cliff De Young, Mason Adams
Director: Robert Mandel
» See full cast & crew
F/X Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 26, 2013
Robert Mandel's thriller "F/X" (1986) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Australian distributors Umbrella Entertainment. There are no supplemental features included on this release. In English, without optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Special effects technician Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown, Cocktail, Full Body Massage) is approached by federal agents and offered $30,000 to stage the execution of crime boss Nicholas DeFranco (Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City), who has recently agreed to testify against the mafia. If Rollie "kills" DeFranco in public, the Justice Department will be able to fool his former associates who really want him dead and keep him alive until it is time for him to go to court.
At first Rollie refuses to get involved, but later on he changes his mind and opens up his bag of tricks. He "kills" DeFranco using first-class special effects in a chic restaurant, but something goes terribly wrong and the crime boss really dies. Shortly after Rollie contacts the men who hired him, someone also tries to kill him.
Meanwhile, Lt. Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy, First Blood) begins asking questions and realizes that Rollie's staged execution of DeFranco is only a very small piece in a very big play with plenty of important players.
Robert Mandel's F/X is a fast and very entertaining thriller with some great performances from a very solid cast. The film looks a bit dated, but it is still as charming as it was some twenty seven years ago.
The first half of the film reminds of Andrew Davis' The Fugitive. Rollie is alone, running for his life and trying to figure out how to prove that he is innocent. After he identifies his opponents, however, the film moves into a slightly different territory where the action is more important than the suspense. Some of the most entertaining sequences in the entire film are right here.
The second key character in the film is Leo, the old-fashioned cop. He does not like what he is told and alone tries to assemble the scattered pieces of the puzzle Rollie is a part of. Leo's clashes with his colleagues makes this film look appropriately raw.
The finale is very well done. In a large mansion, Rollie shows why he is considered the best in the highly competitive visual effects business and proves that he is innocent. (Some of his tricks may look a bit dated now, but I assure you that when the film first came out a lot of people, myself included, were quite impressed with them).
Brown, a terrific Australian actor who sadly isn't as active as he used to be, is outstanding as the special effects technician who does not know who to trust. Dennehy also impresses as the feisty cop would not mind risking his job and pension to expose the men responsible for DeFranco's murder. There are also notable cameos by Cliff De Young (The Hunger), Mason Adams (TV's Lou Grant), and the beautiful Diane Venora (Heat).
F/X was lensed by acclaimed Czech cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek (Milos Forman's Loves of a Blonde, Taking Off, Amadeus).
In 1991, Brown and Dennehy reunited for the sequel of F/X, F/X2). The second film was directed by Australian filmmaker Richard Franklin (Road Games, Psycho II).
F/X Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080/50i transfer, Robert Mandel's F/X arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Australian distributors Umbrella Entertainment.
The high-definition transfer has been sourced from a dated master and more often than not it certainly shows. There are select close-ups that look rather pleasing (see screencaptures #1 and 3), but the indoor and nighttime footage frequently looks very soft and flat (see screencaptures #7 and 10). Color reproduction also does not impress, with color saturation in particular leaving a lot to be desired. The good news is that there is no problematic motion-judder. Also, there have been no attempts to sharpen the high-definition transfer. Finally, the bigger your screen is, the easier it will be for you to see some of the random compression artifacts that pop up throughout the film. On the other hand, there are no large cuts, damage marks, or stains to report in this review. All in all, there is plenty of room for improvement, which is why I think that at some point in the future a better presentation of F/X is likely to appear on the market. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
F/X Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English Dolby Digital 2.0. For the record, Umbrella Entertainment have not provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossy audio track does not handle particularly well the different action sequences in the film. While clarity is relatively good, depth an fluidity do not impress (see the restaurant sequence in the very beginning of the film). Bill Conti's soundtrack, as well as Imagination's big hit "Just an Illusion" that is heard at the end of the film, also do not get the type of solid dynamic boost lossless audio usually delivers. The good news is that the dialog is stable and there is no problematic background hiss.
F/X Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray release.
F/X Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Robert Mandel's F/X is one of my favorite '80s thrillers. I like its sequel, F/X2, even more. I often revisit these films because they are well scripted and enormously entertaining. They have also preserved that unique '80s atmosphere that made quite a few Hollywood produced films look better than they actually were (another such very entertaining film is Ridley Scott's Someone to Watch Over Me). This Australian Blu-ray release of F/X offers some minor improvements in quality over previous DVD releases, but the film can look a lot better. You should consider picking up the Blu-ray only if you could find it on sale.
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