Fuzz (1972) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and sexuality (PG-13 by today's standards)
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Tom Skerritt, Jack Weston, Raquel Welch, Yul Brynner, James McEachin, Steve Ihnat, Dan Frazer, Charles Martin Smith, Tamara Dobson, Brian Doyle-Murray (cameo), Uschi Digard (cameo)
Director: Richard A. Colla
Screenplay: Evan Hunter (from his novel, written under his pen name, Ed McBain)
Review published October 16, 2005
A possible attempt to make the police flick equivalent of MASH, Fuzz is a serio-comic look at Boston's 87th precinct during a particular week of work, following a motley crew of police officers, their hijinks, interactions, and busts. Evan Hunter (The Birds, Strangers When We Meet) would adapt one of his own "87th Precinct" novels that he had written under the name of Ed McBain, but whatever fun is to be had in reading the original source material didn't translate well to the screen. Although many releases of the film spotlight Burt Reynolds (The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit) and Raquel Welch (Mother Jugs and Speed, The Three Musketeers) as the stars, they are only two of many in this ensemble cast, gaining no more screen time than many of the others. Reportedly, Welch requested not to have to work with Reynolds after an unpleasant previous experience, which led to them not having much screen time together.
As with many ensemble cast movies, there are several plots which are interspersed throughout. The primary plot involves a man extorting the police department for money or key public officials will be assassinated. The 87th precinct has been singled out because they are viewed as inept, but they still work hard to try to apprehend the culprit before he strikes again. Meanwhile, there are other jobs to worry about, such as a couple of teenagers that are torching local bums, and a serial rapist is on the loose.
Fuzz certainly has an appealing cast, and if the ingredients could be mixed in a way that would make them palatable, an enjoyable romp could be easily achieved. Sadly, none of it really comes together as Hunter probably intended, as the tone wildly shifts from dead serious to complete slapstick, resulting in a very uneven, and unsettling, viewing experience. It plays out far more like the future television series "Barney Miller" than it does MASH, except that the creators of the mid-70s sitcom at least had the insight to make it primarily a comedy with occasional bits of drama, instead of cramming both together in nearly every scene. The end shot is just downright bizarre, leaving the film a bit open-ended, perhaps thinking that a new series may have resulted. Another thing I couldn't understand -- why does it sport Dinah Shore singing, "I'll Be Seeing You"?
Fuzz also suffers from not being particularly funny when it does strive for laughs, and it isn't very thrilling when it goes for the crime drama aspects. It only achieves being a convoluted, unfocused mess. Although the title is slang for the police, it is also quite an appropriate name for a film that lacks this much focus.
©2005 Vince Leo