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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FUZZ TRACK CITY -- Movie Review by Porfle

(NOTE: I viewed a barebones screener for this film and thus can't comment on any DVD particulars.)

"It was Tuesday.  Or...Wednesday."  A helpful intertitle reads: Friday.  "Anyway," the voiceover continues, "it was late June."

This is the kind of off-kilter private eye narration we get in the cockeyed mystery thriller FUZZ TRACK CITY (2013), because that's just the kind of non-traditional, slightly dazed detective yarn this is.

It's one of those low-budget productions that starts out underwhelming me until I get caught up in it and settle into its slightly spoofy and, as it turns out, endlessly inventive style, and then it ends up knocking my socks off.  So just when I was starting to think "This movie isn't quite as clever or cute as it wants to be", it turned out to be exactly as clever and cute as it wanted to be.

The rumpled hero, Murphy Dunn (Todd Robert Anderson, BLAST FROM THE PAST), is a P.I. whose partner and mentor, Stan, recently died and left him to run their detective agency by himself.  When his former high school guidance counselor and secret crush Miss Dawn Lockwood (Dee Wallace) comes to him for help finding her missing son, it's his first solo case.

When a couple of rival dicks try to strongarm him away from the case, one of them describes him as "a hard rock gumshoe from the valley who still uses pay phones and sweats Cutty Sark."  (Dunn does acquire his first cell phone during the story, which is a source of several good gags.) More comically hardboiled dialogue includes the line "Is that the dirtiest look you got, you brick-top honky bitch?"  Not exactly poetry, but it'll do.

After two more street thugs hired by someone else turn up and start twisting and breaking parts of his body, Dunn realizes that he's stumbled onto something big.  In fact, it all has to do with a missing rare 45 rpm record that the country's current number one rock god, Zack Lee (Sean Wing, FORGET ME NOT), is desperate to get his hands on along with various other shadowy figures.

It's this desperation that gets Dunn into a series of tight situations that he must either use his wits or his fists to squeeze his way out of.  With his shaggy hair and porn stache, Anderson plays the part with just the right amount of hangdog, world-weary cool, reminding me of a cross between Brendan Fraser and Tom Hanks who's kind of a living time capsule from the 80s.

Along the way Dunn encounters several interesting characters such as Ziggy, the agoraphobic record collector (Josh Adell, LOST ON PURPOSE), Greg, the resentful over-the-hill musician who actually played on the mystery 45 and knows its secret (Dave Florek, GHOSTBUSTERS II), and Jo (Abby Miller), an aspiring smalltown singer who waitresses at the diner Dunn hangs out in for coffee and Monte Cristo sandwiches. 

His ex-wife Al (Tarina Pouncy, MINDGAME), whom he caught in bed with Stan shortly before his death and is pregnant with his baby, comes back as Dunn's secretary and stakeout companion, a touchy arrangement to be sure.  (Especially since she's ready to pop at any moment.)  As Miss Lockwood, Dee Wallace is as lovable as ever and we can't help rooting for Dunn to have a fling with her despite the fact that she's old enough to be his way-older sister.

Writer-director Steve Hicks is a definite talent and seems to have put everything he's got into this sprightly, pitch-perfect blend of satire, deadpan drama, and classic detective fiction.  It reminded me at times, in spirit anyway, of Robert Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE, although Dunn isn't nearly as ruthless or cynical as Elliott Gould's Phillip Marlowe.

Despite all the breezily funny touches intertwined throughout the entire script, FUZZ TRACK CITY is never less than a gripping, suspenseful detective story with a corker of a mystery at its heart.  It's the kind of surehanded musical comedy-thriller that THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE wanted to be but with a tinier budget and a way better screenplay.  And it's the kind of pleasant surprise that only comes when low expectations turn into big fun.

Buy it at

Tech Specs

Studio: Indican Pictures
Runtime: 90 minutes
Format: 1:85 Flat (HD)
Sound: Dolby SR
Rating: NR
Genre: Urban/Action
Language: English
Country: USA


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