Saturday 28 September 2019

Movie Review: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

The third big screen teaming of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, See No Evil, Hear No Evil is a mostly dull on-the-run crime comedy.

In New York City, Dave Lyons (Wilder) is deaf but can read lips and runs a newsstand. Wally Carew (Pryor) is blind and secures a job as Dave's assistant. Both of them refuse to allow their disabilities to slow them down. One morning assassin Eve (Joan Severance) kills a target at the newsstand as she pursues a precious coin with her partner Kirgo (Kevin Spacey). Wally smells Eve's perfume but does not see anything, Dave sees Eve's legs but does not hear anything. Wally inadvertently ends up with the coin in his pocket.

With no witnesses to the murder police Captain Braddock (Alan North) arrests Dave and Wally, but they escape and go on a wild trip to clear their name, a journey leading to the estate of master criminal Sutherland (Anthony Zerbe).

Using disabilities as crutches for comedy is suspect enough, but See No Evil, Hear No Evil also suffers from a limp script and bland execution. Five screenwriters (including Wilder) somehow contrive to create a non-story solely dependent on a couple of set-pieces, and director Arthur Hiller is unable to enliven the material.

Two scenes actually work and salvage some laughs. In the first Dave and Wally team up to engage in a comic fist fight against a boorish opponent. Wally fancies himself a boxer and Dave steers him and provides on-the-fly targeting advice. The second and only other highlight features a long and rowdy car chase, the blind Wally steering at high speed while Dave in handcuffs issues frantic instructions from the passenger seat.

Wilder and Pryor are both surprisingly lacklustre, both stars appearing distracted. Dave and Wally's insistence on marching on with life and mostly ignoring their disabilities is admirable, although in the few moments of reflection the film appears unsure whether to celebrate or criticize their stubbornness. Not that is matters; See No Evil, Hear No Evil is frivolous comedy, best left unseen and unheard.

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