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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.
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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 notorious mob boss Nicholas DeFranco (Jerry Orbach).

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 Disney-owned cable channel, or f(x), the South Korean Girl Group.

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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.

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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.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The Rambo films exists in the film's universe, evidenced by the poster for the second film in Rollie's apartment. Leo's actor Brian Dennehy had played the Big Bad of the first film.
  • Chekhov's Gun: DeFranco's 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!
  • Decoy Protagonist: In the first film Ellen seems like a typical love interest and a sidekick, but is shot by a sniper 30 minutes in.
  • 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 DeFranco being put into witness protection. It turns out to be a double bluff where Rollie is framed for the death of DeFranco, but he was indeed only Faking The Dead.
  • 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. In the second movie, he employs a remote-controlled clown lying in wait for anyone anticipating the monster!
  • 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'...in 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.
  • 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 Mason'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).
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): FX

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