Australian star Bryan Brown has a pair of movies in theaters Friday, the most visible being "FX 2," which has him reprising his "F/X" role as a movie special effects expert who, once again, gets involved in a murder investigation, and "Sweet Talker," which casts him as a charming con artist who finds himself falling for one of his victims in a small Aussie seaside town.
Brown is quite good in both films, though both suffer from predictable scripts and are more interesting in their parts than on the whole. (Brown also gets some of the blame for that, at least for "Sweet Talker," which gives him a co-writing credit for the story.)- "FX 2," the "FX" being movie shorthand for "special effects," has Brown again playing Rollie Tyler, who has given up movie work in favor of making elaborate toys - toys that are so sophisticated they seem to be designed more for adults than kids (in particular a life-size, remote-control clown that will figure in the film's action more than once).
Rollie's girlfriend (Rachel Ticotin, who is also prominent in "One Good Cop") and her young son (Dominic Zamprogna) have helped him put the tragedies of the first film behind him - but her ex-husband (Tom Mason), a police detective, is about to pull Rollie back into the line of fire.
Before long Rollie again teams up with disgruntled, retired New York cop Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy) as they uncover police corruption involving a plot to recover stolen Vatican artifacts.
The storyline is a fairly by-the-numbers affair, with more than a few plot holes (the most obvious being a hit man who repeatedly tries to kill Rollie - and becomes our favorite cliche, the killer that wouldn't die - until Rollie turns the tables on him; then the guy just disappears.)
But, obviously, this is a film to enjoy for the wild action sequences and not to think about. On that level it works pretty well, especially when Rollie has to resort to using everyday items - as in a grocery store chase - to foil the bad guys.
The two Brians make a good team (Dennehy has a little inside joke where he tosses liquor bottles, spoofing Brown's role in "Cocktail") and there are some funny and inventive action scenes, but the film is very weak on plot and character.
It's also a very rough PG-13, for considerable violence and gore, nudity, profanity and vulgarity. "FX 2" really should have been rated R.
- "SWEET TALKER" is obviously a labor of love for Brown. He co-wrote the storyline and has a great time on the screen as an amiable con man who attempts to take the residents of a small seaside village for all their worth.
But he's surprised at the reaction of the locals when he presents his scheme. He claims to know where a famous galleon is that supposedly sank off the village coast, and he makes the local residents investors in a plot to dig it up and create a tourist attraction. They throw their money at him.
But when he meets innkeeper Karen Allen and her young, fatherless son (Justin Rosniak), Brown, naturally, begins to have second thoughts about his so-called profession.
The film wants to be a kind of giddy comedy that is rare these days - but actually Brown and his cast are more giddy than the film itself.
The players are all very good and Brown and Allen have chemistry together, but the film is so broad, yet so low-key and meandering, that it never quite builds up a real head of steam. Worse, it simply isn't funny enough to sustain interest. (And, as is often the case these days, a bevy of wonderful supporting players are introduced but never given enough to do.)
There are times when this old-fashioned, sentimental comedy resembles those little pictures by Scotsman Bill Forsyth, most obviously "Local Hero," or perhaps the old British caper comedies of Alec Guinness. But those films knew enough to keep the laughs coming, however low-key they might be, whereas "Sweet Talker" has too many plodding sequences.
"Sweet Talker" is rated a mild PG for some mild violence, a couple of profanities and vulgar references, and implied sex.