Take Dog Day Afternoon, blend it in with Scorsese's After Hours, and don't forget that it's really about Bill Murray, Geena Davis and Randy Quaid as non-professional criminals who pull off a goof of a bank robbery and intend to escape to the airport, and you might get an idea of what Quick Change is about. It announces itself in the opening 20 minutes as a comedy to take seriously, as we follow along what looks to be an average circus clown around town, and he stops at a bank... and then proceeds to hold it up and do the hostage/demand thing. But it's Bill Murray, and he has that attitude you might usually see him in in a movie even if it's only for a minute: hey, I'm here, again, on camera, oh man, this is going to be another day in it. He has that great self-effacing attitude, dead-pan but very aware, and it comes through brilliantly as he balances between comedy and drama in the opening scenes (drama, as in a crying Randy Quaid and talk-back Geena David, who happen to actually be Murray's character's partners in crime).
Quick Change is a dark comedy in a very rich form; it takes its aim not just at bank robbers and the cops who go after them (specifically the hard-nosed detective, here casted perfectly with Jason Robards), but also New York in the late 80s, its see-saw of really hazardous grounds among Queens and Brooklyn and the "plans" for urban renewal. Not to mention the characters who just pop up for a scene here or a scene there, almost like a trip to hell where there's a stop-off every few minutes or so, sometimes with a car thief, a cab driver with no English (Tony Shalhoub), a bus driver described at one point as Ralph Kramden's evil-twin, and of course the mob. It is parody, but it's never spoken outright or made directly like in Hot Shots or Naked Gun. It's Bill Murray doing smart comedy that relies on wits and edge, so that even as the screenplay makes fun of the tropes of heist movies it doesn't lose its own voice.
And, thankfully as well, Davis and Quaid are totally game for the production, and if I may say so Davis is a good here and convincing as a reluctant 'squeeze' of Murray's bank robber (who, by the way, feels "complete" now that he's pulled of the job) as she was in Thelma and Louise. Quaid, too, has his share of laughs, even if he may be saddled more than anyone with physical pratfalls and the 'damage-to-his-body' jokes that are sometimes riotous (the jump from the cab and slam into the newsstand) and sometimes not (the running 'joke' of his freak-outs at little things, a super neurotic). But very often the chances for comedy are taken on, and they're risky ones, like when Murray rips off the gangsters as a means to just slip out of the place he and his co-horts literally stumbled into. And there is something unique to the film by having Murray co-direct it; one can feel his stamp more than anyone, and it's good thing since he knows how to take the story forward while not losing sight of moments of great observation- of character and landscape- and of the plot itself, which comes to a great big twist when they finally make it to the airport. Only Kubrick's the Killing has a better climax as a heist movie at an airport.
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