Review No. 567
How should I describe the humor? It’s “Ruthless” on the lungs.
Director — David Zucker & Jim Abrahams & Jerry Zucker
Producer — Michael Peyser
Screenplay — Dale Launer
Danny DeVito — Sam Stone
Bette Midler — Barbara Stone
Judge Reinhold — Ken Kessler
Helen Slater — Sandy Kessler
Distributor — Buena Vista Distribution
Release Date — June 27, 1986
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 1 hour, 33 minutes
MPAA Rating — R
Flags (allmovie.com) — adult humor; adult language; adult situations; not for children; nudity; profanity
RUTHLESS PEOPLE WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 10, 2013.
“ruthless: adj. Having no compassion or pity; merciless”
Ruthless People concerns one ruthless man, his ruthless wife, and a normal married couple who tries to be ruthless. Why is it so funny? The latter party has the advantage. Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) is a ruthless man who wants his wife Barbara (Bette Midler) dead. He willingly lets her into the hostage of the two ruthless-wannabes, Ken and Sandy Kessler (Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater), who just want a little bit of money. But will he even hand over the ransom cash? Hell, no.
This might be a good twenty percent of the story. The laughs skyrocket when a sex tape becomes involved in the crime, mainly because it’s confused for a tape of the unhappened “murder” of Sam’s wife. And then the laughs skyrocket again. And again. Maybe only the sky could be the limit for the utterly misanthropic DeVito, and the enthusiastically wacky Midler. (Actually, “enthusiastically wacky” might just understate her performance.)
It could both help and mislead, knowing that this is from David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. These are the men behind such comedies as The Kentucky Fried Movie, TV’s Police Squad!, and its spinoff series of Naked Gun movies. They’ve worked as a directorial trio on three films: Top Secret!, Airplane!, and Ruthless People. With the exclamation point, we lose the farcical, madcap feel to black comedy. That goes without saying, I don’t doubt this is their best work in the genre, solo works included.
Ruthless People was the debut screenplay from writer Dale Launer, and it doesn’t show until the movie starts to drag near the last few minutes. Everything is brilliantly written here. I’m really not sure what was intended here, apart from being dark to no end, but if the attempt was to screwball-ize Bonnie and Clyde, Strangers on a Train, and just about any “cat-and-mouse” thriller…well, then, there’s all the more reason to say, well done. Well done, one and all.
STAY TUNED FOR MY “LEAVING LAS VEGAS” REVIEW @ 4:30