film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Quicksilver 1986 * * 1/2 Stars

The picture above is a movie title image for the film Quicksilver
Director: Thomas Michael Donnelly
Year: 1986
Rating: PG
Rating: * * 1/2 stars
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Jami Gertz, Paul Rodriguez

Kevin Bacon, hot off the heels from his sleeper mega hit Footloose (1984), decided to take on the eccentric role of a floor trader turned bicycle messenger in the underrated, but yet somewhat misguided Quicksilver. I read somewhere that he called this flick "the lowest point of my career." Well Kevin, I'm here to tell ya, it ain't that bad. There is a lot to admire in this mid 80's nugget. It's got an incomparable synthesizer-ready soundtrack, intense bicycle sequences that kill stuff from duds like American Flyers (1985) (oh don't forget the chase scenes. The movie takes place in San Francisco so just think Bullitt on bikes), a little bit of what I call bicycle "break dancing" (you'll see it about 20 minutes in), and an exciting, tantalizing opening credits montage that holds a bit of a promise. Unfortunately, like most 2 and 1/2 Star movies, Quicksilver's flaws outweigh its strengths. Let me put it this way; it's a film that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Somewhere along the line, it seemed like this thing wasn't quite edited in time. A deadline had to be meant, Quicksilver had to be unleashed into theaters, and you can tell that some scenes were left on the cutting room floor. However, even with its moderately short running time (1 hr. almost 40 minutes), it still feels like you're watching 3 different movies at once. Back in 1986 (year it was released), theater owners probably should have charged double admission (I hate to say it but it's justifiable).

Quicksilver plays out like this: Kevin Bacon glides into the role of Jack Casey (by the way he is really moody in this vehicle), a one time stock broker who loses all his life savings (along with the life savings of his parents as well) on a bad trade and decides to quit the business and become a bicycle messenger. In fact, it's explained early on that a lot of bike messengers used to have big time, well paying jobs (it's also explained that one of these dudes used to work for the mayor). At first, I chalked this up to be sort of an unusual career change (he was in a cab that raced a random cyclist and lost. That could have been his inspiration, who knows) but then Bacon's character explains the whole thing in a tiny compelling soliloquy while talking to a friend in a coffee shop. He explains that this job is simple, less stressful, and the main thing is, he doesn't have a lot of responsibility (take the package from here to there, “Que Sera Sera”). Since taking this job, Casey barely pays his rent, lives in kind of a warehouse, and shares the space with a snobby pretentious dancer (Whitney Kershaw who I'm guessing is his girlfriend). So okay, you get the blueprint. But I will reveal a little more later on in the review. It's not exactly an exercise bent on storytelling in the cycling realm. That's for darn sure. I will say this though, I learned a lot of about the bike messenger business from a recent viewing. It seems to be run like a pizza delivery chain, a very lucrative pizza delivery chain. Oh and be on the lookout for the outside of the building or home base where all the messengers huddle while waiting for assignments. It clearly looks like an almost blatant, fake, Hollywood set instead of an actual shooting location.

So anyway, I stated earlier that this film didn't quite have an idea what it wants to be. OK, let’s examine this rather large factoid. Is it about Bacon wanting to return to his old job? Is it about his friend Terry (Jami Gertz) delivering packages for a psychotic drug dealer named "Gypsy" (Rudy Ramos) and not getting paid for it? Is it about Bacon's friend Hector (the likable Paul Rodriguez) needing his help to start a hot dog cart business, or is it about Bacon's parents disapproving of his new lifestyle (his dad is in two powerful scenes that have value, but we never see him after that)? Notice, I didn't really mention cycling. When the movie was about to come out, it was clearly advertised this way but gosh, it feels like good old ten speeds got pushed to the wayside.

Now as I said in the beginning of the review, I certainly don't think that Quicksilver is a bad film. There are some poignant and excitedly dark moments where tension is mounted and we view the bare bones of a solid dramatic thriller. But alas, this in an exercise where momentum is sometimes undercut by hardly relevant side plots and massively underdeveloped characters. Now listen, don't be so "quick" to judge it based on some of the things I've said. You just gotta know what you're getting into. Entertaining yet flawed, promising yet manipulative, this is a flick about bicycles that's not really about bicycles. In truth, it's a solid nostalgic rental (if you can find it) and with multiple viewings, it may just bring home the "Bacon." Natch!

Written by Jesse Burleson

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