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Film / F/X: Murder by Illusion

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Is it murder or is it Title Drop?

Rollie: In this hand is the ammo for the gun.
Rollie: And this is Krazy Glue. 1001 uses... now 1002.

F/X: Murder by Illusion is a 1986 movie starring Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy, about a movie special effects man, Rollie Tyler (Brown), who gets dragged into the criminal underworld when he is hired by the F.B.I.'s witness protection program to fake the death of a notorious mob boss.

The F/X shoot goes awry, and now it looks like Rollie - through criminal negligence or deliberately - is responsible for the actual death of the man whose demise he was supposed to fake.

While Rollie frantically tries to figure out what went wrong, NYPD Detective Leo McCarthy (Dennehy) is investigating the same murder, and increasingly frustrated that the FBI is being less helpful than usual.

Not to be confused with FX, the Fox Entertainment-owned cable channel, or FX, the South Korean Girl Group.

The movie was followed up in 1991 with F/X 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion, in which Rollie, now retired from special effects, is asked by his girlfriend's ex-husband to help him catch a killer. When the ex-husband and killer are both killed by an unknown assailant, Rollie turns to former-detective turned Private Investigator McCarthy to help him figure out why and bring the killer to justice.


Both movies were followed up by F/X: The Series, which has its own page, and recast the roles of both Rollie and McCarthy, likely for budget reasons.

F/X and F/X 2 contain examples of:

  • The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House: A phone call is traced to the lobby of the same government building where the call is being taken. Turns out that two pay phones have been taped together earpiece-to-mouthpiece so tracing the call wouldn't work.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The mob boss' pacemaker in the first one. He worries that the transceiver used to trigger the blood-packs will interfere with it. At the end, he touches an electrified gate. Whoops!
  • Chekhov's Armory:
    • Any and all special effects equipment that is shown at one point in either movie will come in to play by the end for more than Rollie's work.
    • Also pay attention to any and all character traits mentioned, even if it's only once. Rollie does.
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  • Cowboy Cop: Leo McCarthy is seen as this in his department.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: There are plenty of mentions of Rollie's past work.
  • Dirty Cop: Main villain of the second film.
  • Enhance Button: Makes an appearance in the second film to spot the killer in the reflection of a mirror.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Rollie
  • Fake Action Prologue: Both movies open up with a shooting of a film.
  • Faking the Dead: The professed intent of Rollie's first job is to do this for a Mafia don being put into witness protection. It turns out to be a double bluff where Rollie is framed for the death of the don, but the don was indeed only Faking The Dead.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: How Rollie disposes of the first movie's Big Bad.
  • Jump Scare: Rollie has a latex movie monster set up to leap at his door while a recording of the monster's roar is played, whenever somebody comes in. An effective anti-intrusion method.
  • Knife Nut: The killer in the second movie.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: McCarthy finishes a "how to use a gun" lecture to a female cop with, "And this is how you 'cock the sucker' a manner of speaking, that is."
  • Latex Perfection: Justified in that Rollie not only employs significant computer resources to generating a full 3-D image of the head, but he also generates the "mask" in strips so that it moves naturally with the face.
  • Lighter and Softer: The PG-13 sequel is this to the R-rated original film, due to less profanity, gore and violence.
  • MacGyvering: Rollie is a special effects wizard. If you ever get the chance, ask an effects man just how much of their job involves this trope.
  • The Mafia: Appears in both movies.
  • Master of Disguise: Rollie makes full use of his makeup skills to appear as different people.
  • Numbered Sequels: The second movie simply change F/X to F/X 2 to create the sequel name.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: In the climax of the first movie, Rollie deals with the bad guy's mooks by using special effects tricks to make them kill each other while trying to kill him (for instance, by making a reflection of himself appear to a mook who shoots at it and kills another mook who was standing behind it).
  • Shower Scene: Used to lure out the killer in the second movie.
  • Slashed Throat: Used to off the ex-husband in the second movie.
  • Special Effect Failure: Happens in-universe to the alien in the Fake Action Prologue of the second movie.
  • There's No "B" in "Movie": Second movie opens with a shooting of a film which features a sex starved transexual alien on a rampage.
  • Staged Shooting: What Rollie is hired for in the first movie.
  • Suicide by Cop: How Rollie deals with Colonel Mason in the first movie. He tricks him into grabbing an unloaded Uzi covered in Krazy Glue (see the quotes at the top of the page) and forces Mason into a confrontation with the police, where he is quickly shot dead after 'refusing' to drop his gun.
  • They Fight Crime!: The second movie involves Rollie and McCarthy joining forces to track down the criminals.

Alternative Title(s): FX


Example of: