USED CARS (1980)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Used car salesman Rudy Russo has big aspirations. He needs to earn just $10,000 more to make up his $50,000 fee to run for state senate. After hearing his grand plans, Rudy’s kind-hearted boss Luke Fuchs decides to loan him the cash. However, when Luke dies suddenly, Rudy has to find another way to make up the money whilst keeping his death a secret as Luke’s conniving brother Roy L. Fuchs, who owns a competing used car lot across the road, is looking to take over the company. After making a promise to Luke that they’d never let his brother put them out of business, Rudy and fellow employees Jeff and Jim, do whatever it takes to make the New Deal used car lot a roaring success.
Kurt Russell puts on his very best charming yet outright lying face on to persuade punters into buying clapped out old bangers in 80’s comedy USED CARS from Bob Zemeckis and Bob Hale. Doing his very best to steal customers from the opposition, Rudy has to amp up the volume when his beloved boss snuffs it after some foul play by his brother, Roy L. Fuchs, who has also paid off the local councillors to convince them to build a planned highway through Luke’s lot instead of his own. Pretending that Luke is off for some R&R at Miami Beach, Rudy, superstitious ladies-man Jeff, sleepy, scrapper mechanic Jim and Toby, Luke’s incredible smart (and cute!) beagle, have to work together to keep the business afloat and profitable whilst keeping a suspicious Roy at bay. Cue lots of outrageous promotional stunts, a couple involving airing commercials over top-rated TV programmes and scantily clad women, as the battle between Luke’s business and his brother’s intensifies.
Who’d have thought the premise of warring businesses owned by two brothers would make for a cracking comedy, but I can safely say that USED CARS hits the right notes as Kurt Russell, Gerrit Graham (Jeff) and Frank McRae (Jim) pull out all the stops as they attempt to make a success of New Deal in the absence of its owner. What’s funny is that whilst New Deal is owned by the more likeable brother Luke Fuchs, who’s business is very much struggling and the underdog of the two, it’s also the dodgiest with Rudy tampering with the odometer to give out lower mileage readings whilst taxis and other official vehicles are being spray-painted in order to be sold to unsuspecting punters. If you drive off the lot without the bumper falling off, you could count yourself lucky. Roy L. Fuchs business, on the other hand, seems much more legit with higher priced cars on offer, seemingly in a good condition, though Roy himself is a slimeball cheat who prefers to pay off politicians to get his way and isn’t afraid of tampering with the competition, even to the point of offing his own brother in the name of greed!
An outstanding Jack Warden stars in the film not only as the hardworking, lovable Luke but also his greasy brother Roy too in a terrific double turn. Some brilliant costume and hair changes make Warden look like two completely different people and the use of Warden as both brothers only further impresses in what is already a terrific piece of comedic cinema. It’s not just the human actors playing for laughs though. Little Toby the beagle also puts in a perfect performance as Luke’s trusty sidekick who can retrieve tools for his master and also play dead in a bid to play on the sympathies of potential customers.
A lot of the humour in USED CARS comes from Rudy and his crew at New Deal with their hair-brained schemes to get the business noticed. Everything seems impulsive with them but, at the same time, incredibly well planned as the stunts they pull couldn’t possibly be achieved without some cunning. Rudy’s battle to keep the business afloat whilst keeping the truth of Luke’s demise a secret is a hard one to juggle and the heat turns up once Luke’s attractive, estranged daughter Barbara (Deborah Harmon) appears on the scene too. Keeping her away from the saucy and explosive stunts they have in mind is the least of their worries. Speaking of which, USED CARS is definitely not a watch for young audiences. There’s plenty of swearing throughout the movie as well as some flashes of nudity, however most of them are hilarious in nature provided you don’t mind women being treated as a bit of eye candy. And to be fair, we do get a flash of Kurt Russell’s ass so there’s something for the ladies too.
USED CARS looks like it was an absolute hoot to shoot. It takes what could have been a boring idea of selling used cars and makes a treat out of it whilst also staying true to the struggle of being a car salesman, especially one who’s product can’t exactly sell itself. It knows what it is but isn’t ashamed to have fun with it and provides some pretty wild scenes, one of which involves an action-packed race!
An easy watch, goofy in places but with a lot of heart and charisma, screwball comedy USED CARS will have you grinning from ear to ear.
Eureka Entertainment have released USED CARS on Blu-Ray for the first time in the UK and the disc is packed with all sorts of extras including a commentary with Robert Zemeckis, Kurt Russell and producer Bob Hale, isolated scores, an interview feature with Bob Hale on the making of the film and radio interview and advert with Kurt Russell.