Monday, November 24, 2014

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

Very funny third teaming of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, about a deaf man (Wilder) and a blind man (Pryor) who are witnesses to a murder, but through a misunderstanding find themselves wanted by the police as the chief suspects in the case. Together they must escape and track down the real killers in order to clear their names. The premise is fairly routine, but what really sells it are the excellent performances of Wilder and Pryor, and the carefully-constructed humor they get out of their respective disabilities, which is handled extremely well and is never in bad taste. Indeed, the tone of the humor deftly walks a very fine line -- extremely vulgar without ever being mean-spirited or offensive -- thanks to the incredible talent of the two comedians at the heart of the film. An unlikely team, they are remarkable to watch because of how well their contrasting personalities complement each other. They have an excellent sense of timing between them, too, which is put to especially good use in the scene where Pryor knocks out a bar tough by throwing punches based on Wilder's instructions, as Wilder maneuvers Pryor around the bar.

The supporting cast includes Joan Severance as the sexy murderess, and Kevin Spacey in an early role as the smarmy villain, effective enough in what amounts to a rather cartoonish stock "heavy" part. Arthur Hiller's expert direction holds the zaniness together and keeps the pacing strong right up through the action-packed climax, but also manages to find room for leisurely, low-key moments, such as the scene of Wilder and Pryor sharing an ice-cream on a park bench and discussing their life philosophies, which provides the film with some of its warmest laughs.

No comments: