Sunday, November 13, 2022

#2,861. Fuzz (1972) - Burt Reynolds Triple Feature


Burt Reynolds gets top billing in director Richard A Colla’s Fuzz, but it’s actually an ensemble piece with a number of great actors, all doing their part to make this crime / comedy a rip-roaring good time.

It’s business as usual in Boston’s 87th precinct. Plain-clothes detective Steve Carella (Reynolds) goes undercover to catch the punk (or punks) setting the city’s homeless on fire. Det. Eileen McHenry (Raquel Welch), the newest member of the crew, is on assignment to track down a rapist. And both Meyer Meyer (Jack Weston) and Bert Kling (Tom Skerritt) field calls from a potential assassin, who threatens to kill a city councilman if $5,000 isn’t turned over to him immediately. Tempting fate by making a fake drop and staking out the area, the entire 87th finds themselves in hot water when the councilman is, indeed, shot dead on the streets.

Known only as the “Deaf Man” (Yul Brynner) because he wears a hearing aid, this killer continues to call, demanding more money and threatening higher officials every time. With the entire city on alert, the detectives of the 87th put in extra time to crack the case, but will need more than a little luck if they’re to bring this killer to justice.

Based loosely on the 87th Precinct novels written by Evan Hunter (under the pseudonym Ed McBain), Fuzz is, at times, a very funny movie. As established in its opening scene, the 87th is being painted by two guys from the Department of Public Works (Gino Conforti and Gerald Hiken), who are dropping green paint everywhere, and on everyone. Even funnier is the second stake-out to catch the assassin, where Burt Reynolds and Jack Weston go undercover as a couple of nuns while Welch and Skerritt, posing as lovers in a sleeping bag, almost let a potential suspect slip away when they can’t unzip the damn thing!

What makes the comedy in Fuzz so effective is that it’s always played straight. Director Colla shoots the film as if it was a standard police procedural, using overlapping dialogue and hand-held cameras to give it a realistic vibe. The scenes set inside the precinct especially benefit from this approach, and look as if they might have been lifted from The French Connection or TV’s Hill Street Blues.

While the scenes involving the detectives have a humorous bent, those featuring Brynner’s assassin and his cohorts (Peter Bonerz and Cal Bellini) are deadly serious. In one of the film’s strongest sequences, we tag along with the trio as they plant a bomb in the mayor’s mansion.

In any other movie, these shifts from comedy to drama and back again may have seemed jarring, but in Fuzz they work because the cast and crew approach the story so seriously. And while the grand finale is definitely contrived (in more ways than one), it somehow works, bringing the movie to a satisfying (if hard to swallow) conclusion.
Rating: 8 out of 10

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