By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Reporter has many disguises.
Irwin ‘Fletch’ Fletcher (Chevy Chase) works as a newspaper reporter writing articles under the byline of Jane Doe. While working on a story involving drug dealing at a nearby California beach he gets approached by Alan Stanwyck (Tim Matheson) who offers him a large sum of money to kill him. It seems that Mr. Stanwyck has been diagnosed with cancer and has only a short time to live. He wants Fletch to ‘put him out of his misery’ by entering his home at a certain day and time and offing him while making it look like it was just a random robbery gone bad. Initially Fletch agrees to do it, but then begins to do some research on Mr. Stanwyck and finds things just don’t add up.
Out of all the characters that Chase has played this one best suits his talents and personality. His deadpan delivery has always been his major selling point and this part takes full advantage of it while accentuating his smart-ass persona and minimizes the silly pratfalls, which were never funny anyways. The first half clicks nicely and it’s great to have a main character whose personal life is a realistic struggle as he lives alone in a depleted looking apartment complex and bitterly avoiding a divorce lawyer (George Wyner) representing his wife who cheated on him.
The plot is genuinely intriguing and had me hooked. Unfortunately the story takes on too much as it also continues to incorporate elements of the drug dealing at the beach story, which makes things too convoluted especially since the murder-for-hire scheme gets complex enough. The overblown idea to somehow tie both story threads together at the end is a misfire and an overreach. The ultimate explanation for why Stanwyck wanted Fletch to kill him is really lame and a big letdown.
The film is also too long and the humor loses its edge as it progresses. The idea that this reporter would so cleverly be able to infiltrate hospitals and businesses in order to get the information that he wanted is hard to believe and it would have come off better had his profession been a private investigator instead. Chases’s insubordinate behavior towards his boss (Richard Libertini) including at one point even giving him the one-finger-salute is pretty outrageous and would most assuredly get anyone else in the same circumstance fired and deservedly so. I was also unhappy with the portrayal of the cops as they are all shown to be corrupt, abusive and vulgar. Yes I realize there are bad cops out there, but there are also a lot of good ones too and this film makes no attempt to balance that.
Chase gets featured in every scene, so if you are not exactly a fan of his your tolerance will certainly be tested. The film does feature a plethora of familiar faces in minor roles many of whom are wasted although I did enjoy Geena Davis as Fletch’s faithful assistant.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: May 31, 1985
Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes
Director: Michael Ritchie
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube