MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Frauds’ an Overstylized Mix in Thriller-Comedy Genre
If you ever hungered to see a close-up of pop star Phil Collins laughing maniacally with his mouth full of chewy hamburger, then “Frauds” (at the Sunset 5) is the in-your-face movie for you. This exercise in overstylized zaniness has enough wide-angle mug shots to populate a whole apartment building’s worth of peepholes.
What we’re peeping at here is a self-consciously oddball Australian thriller-comedy: “Double Indemnity” as remade by Tim Burton, or something unholy like that. Collins is at the movie’s off-center as a middle-aged, officious insurance investigator whose propriety masks a possibly deadly prankishness. Before long, he’s less Edward G. Robinson than he is proprietor of the malevolent annex to Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
Collins acts as gleeful antagonist to a yuppie couple, Hugo Weaving and Josephine Byrnes, who have submitted an insurance claim for some stolen silverware following the wife’s killing of an apparent intruder in mid-burglary. But Collins smells fraud--improbably but rightly enough--and approves their claim while making increasingly bizarre demands as ransom for his acquiescence.
Conventional as that setup might sound, you can’t quite accuse the movie of being formulaic: In this brightly colored blackmail scheme, Collins’ insurance man eventually turns out to be a villain of Bondian--or Beetlejuiceian--proportions. The three of them finally wind up locked in silly mortal combat in his giant fun house of a residence, with the missus tied up and aimed at a saw blade at the bottom of a slide, Collins merrily quipping, “So long, Beth, it’s been a pleasure halving you,” and such.
Collins isn’t bad playing it unctuous. There does finally appear to be a point to all of writer-director Stephan Elliott’s weary mayhem--something about boys who never grow up, since Weaving, the blackmailed husband, turns out to have just as much frustrated kid in him as Collins. But any critique of games-playing male juvenility is a tad hypocritical for a film as self-impressed by its own garishness.
A Live Entertainment and J&M; Entertainment presentation of a Latent Image production. Starring Phil Collins, Hugo Weaving, Josephine Byrnes. Director-writer Stephan Elliott. Producers Andrena Finlay, Stuart Quin. Executive producer Rebel Penfold-Russell. Cinematographer Geoff Burton. Editor Frans Vandenburg. Costumes Fiona Spence. Music Guy Gross. Production design Brian Thomson. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.
Times-rated Mature (for violence).
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.