Who the hell is Oscar?

There comes a time in the life of every action-film star when they say to themselves: "I'm getting too old for this, it's time to do a comedy."

For Sylvester Stallone, that time was 1991, and that comedy was the John Landis gangster farce Oscar. Why should you care? Hit the jump to find out:

Stallone plays a 1930s gangster who promises his dying father he'll go straight. The film from that point chronicles four hours in the life of Angelo "Snaps" Provolone as he prepares to buy into a partnership at a bank and fulfil his father's dying wish. To say things are not that simple is akin to saying that Michael Bay is quite fond of explosions.

Stallone's young accountant has embezzled $50,000 from him and will only return it, in the form of a black suitcase full of jewels, if he receives Stallone's blessing to marry his daughter. Unbeknownst to the accountant, the girl he wants to marry only told him she was Stallone's daughter. Sly's real daughter, on the other hand, claims to be pregnant by Sly's chauffeur, who ran off to join the army when Sly fired him. Elsewhere, Sly's maid announces she has quit to marry his daughter's fiancĂ© and walks out with a black suitcase full of lingerie - you see where this is going.

Also visiting are the local priest, two suit makers, the maid's fiancĂ©'s chauffeur, the maid's replacement who has an odd connection to Sly, Sly's put-upon language coach and the woman pretending to be his daughter. Not confused enough? Well, the police are watching the house from across the street, desperate to get evidence that Sly's still a crook, and a rival gang are preparing to storm the place.

All this manages to tie up into a neat little conclusion in a brilliant bit of plotting that brings joy to the heart. Unsurprisingly for an upstairs/downstairs farce, the brilliant script is adapted from Claude Magnier's comic play, which was previously adapted in 1967, and the whole affair is pleasantly theatrical. The dialogue is clearly the star, with zingy one-liners covering everything from period references to cheap puns ("He's right, you're both an ox and a moron!")

Landis occasionally dips into ridiculous excess, but we doubt anyone else could have corralled the abundant energy of this manic plot without losing the audience. The brilliant score, based on Gioachino Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville, lends both an Italian flavour and a continuation of pace between dialogue.

Still, this would all have fallen flat without such a stunning cast. Stallone's dimwitted-yet-smug cluelessness may not be acting, per se, but it fits the character perfectly. He's ably supported by Marissa Tomei, Ornella Muti (yes, from Flash Gordon), the genius that is Tim Curry, Kirk Douglas and Kurtwood Smith from Robocop. Further down the list, the workmenlike Chazz Palminteri, Martin Ferrero and Spinal Tap's Harry Shearer,  hold up the stars with performances that stagger; particularly Peter Riegert as Sly's smartarse butler, who deserves a different type of Oscar for his work here.

We absolutely adore this movie and can't believe it doesn't get more recognition. Unlike the eponymous character, the film is pretty easy to hunt down and we implore you to do so, whether you've seen it before or not.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite movies. I'm watching it now! I was looking for the script and stumbled upon this. :)