Thursday, February 24, 2011

#202. Used Cars (1980)

Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, Gerrit Graham

Tag line: "TRUST US"

Trivia:  This is Robert Zemeckis's only R rated movie to date

There’s an old joke that asks how you can tell when a car salesman is lying.  The answer? his lips are moving. Used Cars, Robert Zemeckis’ bawdy, outrageous comedy, succeeds in proving time and again, and always in hilarious fashion, that this joke’s punch line is 100% correct. 

Used car salesman Rudy Russo (Kurt Russell) believes his skills are being wasted, and decides it's time to pursue his real dream: running for public office.  Unfortunately, the “application fee” to enter the upcoming election is $10,000, and Rudy’s a bit short on funds. His boss, Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden), agrees to front Rudy the money, but shortly after making that promise, Luke turns up dead, a tragedy indirectly caused by his manipulative twin brother, Roy (also played by Jack Warden).  

See, Roy owns the competing car lot just across the street, and by getting rid of Luke, he stands to inherit his brother’s worthless property, which may yet become lucrative once a new highway is constructed. Faced with the reality of losing their jobs, Rudy and his co-workers (played by Gerrit Graham and Frank McRae) hide Luke’s body, telling everyone he’s alive and well, but vacationing in Florida. Things go from bad to worse, however, when Roy’s estranged daughter, Barbara (Deborah Harmon), shows up out of the blue, and starts asking how she might go about getting in touch with her ‘vacationing’ father. 

Kurt Russell's at his slimy best as Rudy, whose dishonest tendencies are established in the film’s opening scene (he rolls back the mileage on a recent arrival, then places a “like new” sign on its windshield). Jack Warden is also excellent in a dual role, playing both the honest but sickly Luke Fuchs and his mean and nasty brother, Roy. As a cheat, Roy can match Rudy lie-for-lie.  When the bribe money he’s been paying to the Mayor fails to bring about results, Roy laments, “In the old days, when you bought a politician, the son of a bitch stayed bought!” Every new scene in Used Cars promises to be more shocking, and more uproarious, than the last. In a move that would have kept the FCC busy for years, Rudy and his co-workers interrupt the broadcast of a professional football game to air an illegal commercial, which features both foul language and sudden nudity. And how did a shocked American public react to this tasteless display of commercialism? The next day, the lot was full of customers.

If you ever thought of becoming a used car salesman, then I strongly recommend you sit down and watch Used Cars. Then, if you still want to sell cars for a living, well… I hope to hell I never walk onto your lot!


John said...

"A mile of cars." Loved this underappreciated movie. It's been a while since I've seen it (It's hardly ever on TV) and I forget the nude scene! Oh, well.

PurpleCrayon said...

Used Cars is the greatest comedy ever filmed,
and still stands the test of time over the decades.