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Bullseye!
(1990)

Director: Michael Winner  
Cast:
Michael Caine, Roger Moore, Sally Kirkland


If you have been reading the reviews on this website for a while now, you will see that I do like my schlock. You also have probably correctly guessed that when there is some unknown schlock with an irresistible feature to it, I try to immediately pounce on it - usually. There are also some kinds of schlock that I have taken my sweet time into getting to. An example of this can be illustrated by the movie I am reviewing right now, Bullseye! At first glance, you may rightly wonder why it has taken me so long to get to this movie, at least when you don't count the fact that Bullseye! never seems to pop up on television anymore (at least on the Canadian and American television stations I am able to get in my area.) As well as not counting the facts that purchasing a used VHS copy from the States would be expensive when you add shipping and customs costs, and a DVD purchase would be even more expensive. Anyway, looking at the movie, you will instantly see several attributes that would seem appealing to someone like me who likes the quirky and the unusual. The biggest selling point of the movie is that the top-billed star happens to be Michael Caine. Just about everybody seems to like Michael Caine, and that includes me. Most of his movies have been too well-known to be reviewed on this web site, but in the past I did take a look at his comedy Surrender, which I felt was wrongly neglected. Another reason that you might think Bullseye! might be instantly appealing to me is that it was produced by the notorious Menahem Golan. When he produced this movie, he wasn't with his producer cousin Yoram Globus anymore, but he was still grinding out the schlock on a regular basis.

In fact, Menahem Golan produced the Michael Caine movie Surrender, so you might have expected me to immediately seek out Bullseye! at least to watch on my own time. But as I told you earlier, I was pretty slow to get to this movie. Although the movie had some irresistible attributes, there were also some things about the movie that kind of turned me off of the idea of watching it. One reason was that Michael Caine's co-star in the movie was Roger Moore. I have to admit that I have never been a big fan of Roger Moore. Sure, I have watched all the James Bond movies he's been in because I like the action and gadgetry of the James Bond movies. Moore was okay doing the action and working the gadgets, but when it came to showing the lighter and funnier side of James Bond, he delivered the humor in such an "Oh, aren't I cute?" way that the movies were almost ruined. Though it wasn't just Moore's presence in Bullseye! that was an initial turn-off. In the credits, I saw that Michael Winner was not only the director of the movie, he had a hand in writing its story (with music composer Leslie Briccusse!) Now, I admit that Winner has made some movies I have liked, such as Death Wish and Chato's Land. But his successful movies have been action movies, and even while these movies were overall successes, they all had some big unsubtle touches to them. Not exactly the kind of director you would expect for a light-hearted comedy. In fact, I had seen one of Winner's other light-hearted vehicles before Bullseye! was made (The Wicked Lady), and my memories of it just strengthened my theory that Bullseye! would be heavy-handed and unfunny.

There was a third reason why the idea of watching Bullseye! seemed unappealing to me. That was its premise, being of not just one, but two characters in the movie being mistaken for two other characters who looked exactly like them. I dislike this particular comedy premise, Bullseye!not just because it has been done to death in other movies and TV shows. It's just that the idea of other characters being fooled by this seems pretty stupid. Sure, the doubles may be able to get away with it for a short time, but for a long time? The doubles may look alike, but in real life they would have different voices and personalities that would soon break the charade. This comic premise is not only very old, but unbelievable. Anyway, those three reasons were why I avoided watching Bullseye! for a long time. But when I came across it in a local thrift shop the other day, a voice in my brain told me, "Give it a chance - you might not get another opportunity." So 99 cents later, I had the chance to watch it at last. Here's the plot description from the back of the video box: "An uproarious comedy of mistaken identities and dazzling double-crosses, Bullseye! stars Michael Caine and Roger Moore in dual roles as a pair of corrupt scientists and their look-alike impostors... After collecting a cache of diamonds as a deposit on their scientific formula, the scientists convince their government that the experiment was a failure, planning to keep the gems for themselves. But before they can sell the real formula to the highest bidder for even more cash, two bumbling crooks steal their diamonds, their formula, and their identities. Caine and Moore are hilarious as both sets of criminals trying to outwit each other on a cross-country chase aboard the Orient Express. Sally Kirkland (Anna) co-stars as a sexy American who aids the impostors, helping the hapless thieves keep their caper on target... and totally off the wall!"

Bullseye! is off the wall, alright, since it lands far, far off the target it was aiming for. In fact, it flies out of the room the target was in, and finally lands with a big thud on the other side of the street. This is one awful comedy, though I can't blame anyone but myself for picking it up. I should have got a clue by the fact that Michael Caine, despite having a real-life friendship with co-star Roger Moore, made absolutely no mention of this movie in his two autobiographies, What's It All About and The Elephant To Hollywood. Another warning I should have paid attention to came from years ago, when I read a review of the movie in a British film magazine, a review that started off with the following statement: "Bullseye? Bulls*it's more like it!" Not exactly classy writing, but that well sums up the entire enterprise that goes wrong pretty much in any way you can think of. What makes it even worse than you can possibly imagine is that it's pretty clear that the filmmakers knew they had a bomb on their hands, and they added a cinematic band-aid in a desperate attempt to fix things, but instead made things worse. This comes with the device of narration. Caine's thief character narrates on the soundtrack throughout the movie, making various observations such as exclaiming, "We got the message - they want to kill us!" when he and Moore's thief character narrowly escape an exploding haggis bomb (don't ask.) I am not exaggerating when I tell you that none of this narration proves to be necessary in any way - it is just commenting on what's happening onscreen, events that we would be able to understand without this narration. Listening to it, you feel like your intelligence is being insulted, and you feel great anger and annoyance towards the filmmakers.

But even if that narration had not been added to the movie, there would still be enough botched moments that would bring you to a furious mood long before all the movie's ninety-five minutes have played out. I'll now get onto the movie's raison d'Ítre, to make the audience laugh. Well, I will tell you that I didn't laugh while watching Bullseye! Not once. The movie tries a whole bunch of different kinds of attempts of humor throughout the movie. Some of it is simply wrong-headed in idea as well as execution, like thinking that someone getting their head blown off is hilarious. But even the more familiar kinds of humor falls flat. There is heavy-handed slapstick, like when Caine gets blasted in the face by the exhaust pipe of a bus. There are lame one-liners, like when Caine mutters, "I come from a broken home," after escaping a wrecking ball that has destroyed his home. There are desperate attemps at raunchiness, like when the movie shows a nun fainting from the sight of two dogs having sex - which the movie feels is so funny that we see more doggie intercourse in the next scene. The movie even rips off (and ineptly recreates) gags from other and more famous comedies, like the most famous moment from the Buster Keaton silent movie Steamboat Bill Jr. And of course, with the two criminals looking like the two scientists, there are a number of gags having to do with mistaken identity... with none of these gags being anything new from the other movies and television shows you have seen that have involved a person with a double. As I indicated earlier in this review, I think that the whole comic idea of someone having a lookalike interfere with their life has long been exhausted, but this apparently didn't cross the minds of anyone involved with the making of this movie.

Not only is the whole lookalike plot unfunny, the movie repeatedly cheats whenever the two Caine and/or Moore characters are in the same place. The movie is so cheap, you never see the faces of both Caine characters (and/or both Moore characters) in the same shot - one of the characters always has their back to the camera, or their face is off camera range. The movie's low budget is obvious in a number of other ways, like how several car accidents are staged so that only the fenders of the cars are slightly bumped, or how stock footage edited into the movie looks different from the newly-shot footage. By my mention of this, as well as the movie's repeatedly botched attempts at humor, I don't think it's necessary to say that director Winner seems absolutely clueless at the helm of this movie. With the movie not shot with a steady hand, it probably explains why the performances of both Caine and Moore are just as lacklustre as the direction. Moore, who gets to do a lot less than what was given to Caine, seems absolutely befuddled, as well as giving no energy into his performance, even when his character is supposed to be whooping it up with joy. Caine puts a bit more energy into his performance, but even then you can see the embarrassment on his face, and you clearly see that he knows he is in a bomb. And while both men might be good friends in real life, there is absolutely no chemistry between the two men onscreen, either when they are two thieves or when they are playing the scientists. This movie fails in so many ways that it's kind of staggering, and it's a sad example of how at the time of this production the once mighty British film industry was still struggling in many ways to recover after the near collapse of the industry in the 1970s. The industry certainly has made great gains in the more than twenty years after this movie went straight to video. My guess is that it's because the powers that be screen this movie to aspiring directors as an example of what not to do.

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See also: Crime Busters, Don't Die Too Hard, Surrender

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