F/X is such a well-crafted suspense thriller that it's almost as much a pleasure to watch the third or fourth time as it is the first.
Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown) is a special effects man much in demand in Hollywood. He not only is a gifted professional in the trade, he's probably the main reason for the success of such exploitation films he's worked on as I Dismember Mama, Planet of the Female Mummies, Song of the Succubus and Rock-A-Die-Baby. Examples from these movies litter his apartment. He's recruited by Agent Lipton of the Justice Department's Witness Protection Program to stage the fake but public murder of a mafia boss, Nick DeFranco (Jerry Orbach), who will spill his guts to the Feds. All goes well until, after the event, Lipton (Cliff De Young), tries to shoot him down.
Rollie finds himself a player in a murderous con game. He escapes and goes on the run. He doesn't know whether the DeFranco shooting was truly fake or if Lipton substituted real bullets in the gun. In the background, pulling strings, is Lipton's boss, Edward Mason (Mason Williams). While Rollie decides he has to find out what's going on if he's not to become another victim, a tough New York cop (Brian Dennehy) shows up determined to find the truth about DeFranco wherever it takes him.
The action is fast and clever. The story is satisfyingly convoluted. And there are many lessons to be learned...how to make a life mask, how to set off a pattern of fake bullet explosions on your chest, how to hide your pulse so you'll look dead, how to put out a cigarette on your wrist. One of the things that makes this movie so satisfying are the actors. Bryan Brown turns in a fine job as Rollie, confident of his skills, laid back, resourceful, and really scared when people try to kill him. Mason Adams, a skilled actor with a distinctive, rough voice, and Jerry Orbach as the confident and slimy Mafia boss, both add a great deal of interest to the movie whenever they're on the screen. The movie has a funny, good-natured and violent opening scene as well as a clever and satisfying bankshot of an ending.
There even is wisdom for us. As Rollie's movie actress girl friend says to him at the start of the film, "Nobody cares about making movies about people anymore. All they care about is special effects." And this in a film twenty-five years old.