Movie still from 1980's "Used Cars."

Used Cars June 28, 2017        

not trying to pretend pieces of junk are worthy of the queen of England’s cash, plans on making a name for himself in the state Senate. Currently, he’s employed by Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden), owner of the least successful dealership in the area, who donates $10,000 to his campaign in trade of reinvigorating the business.

 

In Used Cars, he is Rudy Russo, an overconfident car salesman who, when not trying to pretend pieces of junk are worthy of the queen of England’s cash, plans on making a name for himself in the state Senate. Currently, he’s employed by Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden), owner of the least successful dealership in the area, who donates $10,000 to his campaign in trade of reinvigorating the business.

 

Business, however, is not destined to really be invigorated. Fuchs’ maniacal twin brother Roy, who happens to own a lot directly across the street, is desperate to inherit his sibling’s quasi-empire, as his own dealership is set to be demolished. Being that classic evil twin vibrations hum whenever near Roy, it’s not much of a surprise when the man stages an accident that makes it look as though Luke died of a heart attack. Knowing all isn’t what it seems, Rudy takes it upon himself to cover up Roy’s doings and tell the general populace that Luke is merely vacationing in Miami. He’s not willing to give up a potentially career furthering opportunity.

 

Troubles arise, then, when Luke’s estranged daughter, Barbara Jane (Deborah Harmon), shows up out of the blue and decides that she’s looking for some paternal re-connection. But Russo, so intent on seeing his ambitions through, continues the lie that Luke is in Nevada. So when Barbara Jane decides to stay in town, amid increasingly aggressive attempts by Roy to take over the dealership, the already shaky circumstances circling around the situation at hand are further rocked.

 

But Used Cars thrives off the hurdles which integrate themselves into the storyline, reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the 1930s minus the fizzy, melodramatic elegance. Characters are demented — Warden’s Roy, a carrot top who looks like he experienced electrocution via Saturday morning cartoon, particularly comes to mind — and Zemeckis, along with co-screenwriter Bob Gale, matches the unbalanced energy of it all with satire that manages to sting without being snide about it. All ends with a balls to the wall action sequence that recalls the golden years of Buster Keaton’s silent movie career.

 

It’s a terrific comedy, maybe not chucklesome in the ways Airplane! (1980) was and is but nonetheless sharp and acidic in its commentary and its output. Zemeckis went on to outdo himself — think 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit or 1994’s Forrest Gump — but Used Cars is an early example of his many innovations, technical or otherwise. Plus, Russell is a delight, and if he and Zemeckis don’t make up something of a dream team then I don’t know who it would take.  A-

DIRECTED BY

Robert Zemeckis

 

STARRING

Kurt Russell

Jack Warden

Gerrit Graham

Deborah Harmon

Joe Flaherty

David L. Lander

Dick Miller

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

1980

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 53 Mins.

R

obert Zemeckis’ Used Cars (1980) is a pitch black comedy concerned with a survival of the fittest battle facilitated by the cutthroat nature of our capitalist society. Its satire is acerbic, and sometimes a little manic, but it gets the dog eats dog nature of American consumerism just about right. Best yet, it wrings a great comic performance out of Kurt Russell, the prototypical action hero often underestimated for his comedic chops.

 

In Used Cars, he is Rudy Russo, an overconfident car salesman who, when