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At the Movies: “FX2 - The Deadly Art of Illusion″

BOB THOMASMay 10, 1991

Undated (AP) _ Rollie Harper is back, with a whole new wagonload of tricks. You remember Rollie. He’s that smooth, nerveless wizard who used his mastery of movie special effects to thwart the bad guys in ″F/X.″

The Orion film, directed by Robert Mandel, created only a small splash in 1986, possibly in part because of the confusing title (it’s Hollywood shorthand for special effects). But 8 million copies were sold to video stores, hence the sequel: ″FX2 - The Deadly Art of Illusion.″

Five year later, Rollie (Bryan Brown) has abandoned movie sets to invent ingenious toys, including a clown named Bluey who can imitate most human behavior. Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy) has left the New York City Police Department to operate as a private detective - not too impressively, it seems.

Brown’s placid new life, which he shares with Rachel Ticotin and her young son, is interrupted when he is asked to help track down a would-be killer. He reluctantly agrees and soon is plunged into a violent world of attacking cyborgs, vicious hit men and corrupt officials. Brown calls on the equally reluctant Dennehy to help.

The first part of ″FX2″ is customary hyper-active stuff - car chase on Manhattan streets, pitched battle in a supermarket (a favorite locale for recent screen action). This is leavened by clever wit, especially from Bluey, who should definitely be held over for ″FX3.″

The best part comes in the set-piece finale, when Bryan and Brian find themselves in a situation that might baffle Superman. That’s when Brown unloads his tricks.

Brown makes a marvelous Rollie, laid-back but resolute: He would have made a marvelous James Bond. Dennehy doesn’t appear until about 45 minutes into the movie, but what a difference he makes. His size is always impressive, but even more so is his air of unpredictability. He can give an edge of mystery to the most mundane of lines.

The supporting cast is first-rate: Rachel Ticotin, Joanna Gleason, Philip Bosco, Tom Mason. The real-life special effects man, Eric Allard, ranks as a star of the movie, too.

Richard Franklin, an Australian and disciple of Alfred Hitchcock, directed with a keen eye for character as well as action. Bill Condon wrote the neatly fashioned sequel.

″FX2″ is an Orion Pictures release produced by Jack Wiener and Dodi Fayed. The rating is R for language and violence. Running time: 109 minutes.

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Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G - General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG - Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 - Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R - Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 - No one under 17 admitted.

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