By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: He’s not a spy.
Cooper (Dabney Coleman) wants to remove Ross (Charles Durning) from his position as director of the CIA so he can occupy it himself. To do this he tries to make it appear that Ross is corrupt and so as a defensive strategy Ross comes up with a scheme of his own. Since he knows that Cooper has his place bugged he has a mock conversation with Brown (Edward Herrmann) telling him that there’s a spy with important information and which he should meet at the airport in order to retrieve. However, there really is no spy it’s all just made up, so that Cooper and his entourage will waste time following around the wrong person, which they do in the case of Richard (Tom Hanks) a man spotted wearing only one red shoe and who now finds his life turned upside down for no apparent reason.
This is a remake of the French classic The Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe and surprisingly it manages to stay very close to the original. To some extent it becomes almost a shot-for-shot retelling with very little that gets changed. Most American films have a much broader sense of humor than European ones and so I was a bit amazed how subtle the comedy stays, but this could also explain why this did so poorly at the box office.
For me this biggest transgression is that this version loses the satirical edge that was so apparent and funny in the first one. The CIA agents aren’t funny at all and don’t come off like real spies just a bunch of incompetent buffoons. None of them have any discernable personalities and it somehow manages to make even Dabney Coleman seem boring and I was really surprised that he even took the part.
Hanks is equally dull and not half as funny as Pierre Richard who played the same part in the original. Richard was of a goofy eccentric while Hanks’ character is a blah ordinary guy who plays off the comedy instead of being a part of it. I also didn’t like that he eventually becomes aware of what is going as I thought it was more amusing that the character remains permanently oblivious to it all like in the French film.
The one improvement that I did like was the presence of Lori Singer as the female agent who is very attractive and has a low, low cut dress that I really digged. However, in the original the female spy, which was played by Mireille Darc, didn’t fall-in-love with the main character until after she got to know him while here Singer appears to be attracted to Hanks right from the beginning for no reason.
There are indeed a few funny moments particularly Hanks visit to his dentist and the scene where he must flush his toilet several times in order to get the water to come out of his sink faucet. Jim Belushi gets a few laughs as his friend who thinks he’s seeing things that really aren’t there, but overall the original is still superior although by not as wide of a margin as with most other American remakes. I was also frustrated that there is never any explanation for why the Hanks character is wearing only one red shoe. In the French film it at least gets explained, but here they don’t even do that.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: July 19, 1985
Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes
Director: Stan Dragoti
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube
Posted in 80's Movies, Comedy, Movies with Nudity, Remakes, Spy/Espionage
Tagged Dabney Coleman, Entertainment, James Belushi, Lori Singer, Movies, Pierre Richard, Review, Tom Hanks
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Following the wrong man.
Bernard Milan (Bernard Blier) and Louise Toulouse (Jean Rochefort) are two rivals within the French Intelligence agency with each looking to unseat the other from their position of power. To counterattack his rival’s ambitions Louise decides to trick the other side into wasting their time by getting them to believe that a man chosen at random is a spy and having them follow him around even though in reality he has no connections to the spy game at all. Violinist Francois (Pierre Richard) gets chosen when he is spotted at the airport wearing only one black shoe. Bernard and his men fall for the bait and follow around Francois wherever he goes and eavesdrop on his conversations like there is some hidden meaning in whatever he says and does, which leads to many amusing results.
The film’s main charm is its satirical jab at governmental bureaucracy and the way they spend so much time and money on wasteful elements that lead nowhere while blithely ignoring the bigger problems. It also playfully taps into the foibles of human nature and how people, once they are convinced of something, will continue to believe it to the point of willfully rejecting or rationalizing evidence that may point elsewhere.
The best bit comes with the overly serious facial expressions that Blier and his subordinates show as they intently listen into Francois’ lovemaking with a woman (Colette Castel). The slapstick during one of Francois concerts and the side-story dealing with Francois’ friend Maurice (Jean Carmet) who thinks he may be going nuts as he spots the spies at various times when no else does are equally side-splitting.
Pierre Richard, who was not the original choice for the part, is perfect in the lead with his flaming, curly, disheveled hair the perfect look for a man that’s just a bit out-of-touch with world around him. The fact that he continues about his daily life while oblivious to all the spying going on around him makes it even funnier and I liked that despite the character being on the goofy side he still ends up coming off like a real person albeit on the eccentric end.
The script by Francis Veber manages to sustain its comical edge throughout, but like with many of his other plots it borders on stretching its one-joke too thin and seeming more like a collection of gags than an actual plot. The humor is funny enough that it works, but the story still lacks a second or third act and could’ve ended sooner than it does. The film also fails to show the most crucial moment of the story, which is why Francois was wearing one black shoe to begin with. It gets briefly explained later, but this is a scene that should’ve been shown right up front before any of the rest of it got played-out.
In 1985 20th Century Fox did an American remake of this film that starred Tom Hanks and was called The Man with One Red Shoe, which will be reviewed tomorrow.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: December 6, 1972
Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes
Director: Yves Robert
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube
Posted in 70's Movies, Foreign Films, French Films, Movies with Nudity, Satire, Spy/Espionage
Tagged Bernard Blier, Entertainment, Francis Veber, Movies, Pierre Richard, Review