Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1989. Touchstone Pictures, Silver Screen Partners IV. Screenplay by Francis Veber, based on his film Les Fugitifs. Cinematography by Haskell Wexler. Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner. Music by David McHugh. Production Design by Rick Carter. Costume Design by April Ferry. Film Editing by Bruce Green.
Francis Veber remakes his own Les Fugitifs for the English-language market, casting Nick Nolte in the role originally played by Gerard Depardieu, an ex-con who is taken hostage at a bank on the day he is released from prison. The robber is a desperate fool (Martin Short) who needs the money for his daughter’s institutional care, but the police mistake Nolte for the culprit thanks to his history. The two of them end up on the lam together both from the law and each other and, as the confusion piles up, they go in search of Short’s daughter in the hopes of escaping to Canada. Combining Veber’s flavor of farce with American low-brow humour should be a bigger mess than this one is, but it doesn’t suffer from its confusion of tones, a number of sequences (including Nolte having a gunshot wound treated by a wacky veterinarian) are actually funny. There is an ambivalence, though, enjoying a manner of drawn-out situational humour more familiar to French comedy that is then interrupted by the kind of slapstick sight gags that ease the fears of studio heads wanting to make a sale (and, one must admit, that Short does so well). Nolte and Short have terrific chemistry and make up for the fact that their backstories are painfully underdeveloped and that the character of the little girl who joins their flight never actually comes across as much more than a symbol.