Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Wrong Guy

The Wrong Guy posterThe Wrong Guy is a Canadian movie, filmed entirely in Canada but set fully in the USA. Its plot begins in Cleveland and heads southward but never actually gets to cross the Mexican border. It also constantly aims at humor, but likewise falls desperately short.

In brief, Dave Foley plays Nelson Hibbert, a nerdy executive who believes he is next in line to be company president. To get this far he has got himself engaged to his boss's daughter; but he discovers that he has chosen the wrong daughter and a rival who is to marry his boss's favorite daughter pips him to the post. Hibbert is dragged from the company meeting, screaming and threatening bloody vengeance. Returning to confront his future father-in-law one on one, he finds the old man dead with a blade embedded in his skull. Panicking, Hibbert grabs the knife and covers himself in blood before running from the building, convinced he is now the prime suspect. Little does he know that the murder was caught on tape, and that in fact he is never under suspicion.

So where can an innocent man find refuge from imaginary pursuers? Mexico, of course. And there's no better place for the guilty, too. So the rest of the film follows Hibbert and the real murderer in their intertwining journeys south. They take buses, steal cars, jump on trains, and hitch-hike, all the while more or less followed by a remarkably ineffective and lazy police chief and his men. Still, somehow the assassin is tracked down, surrounded by marksmen after he's taken Hibbert and a companion hostage. And justice is done when the murderer is captured, his attempts to negotiate transport across the border foiled, and the inadvertent fall guy realizes he is free.

But Hibbert has had some contact with Mexico, or some version thereof. He carries in his wallet a photo of himself in technicolor tourist poncho and oversized comedy hat. So it's as though, beneath his eminently bland, grey-suited exterior, or in some off-kilter part of his nerdy sensibility, there's some cartoon image of mexicanidad that this executive under threat is seeking to rediscover. The film's running gag is that Hibbert is not what he appears: the police continually mistake him for a woman; ordinary members of the public confuse him with the actual suspect; and the real killer believes he's some kind of elite super-cop. But it's as though he himself believes that he could become some kind of wacky Pancho Villa figure. If only he could get to Mexico.

The Wrong Guy still
But Hibbert never makes it. Just as the film itself never quite comes together. Perhaps Mexico is a border too far for a Canadian movie. Just as the film's various imitations of classic Hollywood film (from its Bond movie credits to an entire subplot based on It's a Wonderful Life) never quite attain either parody or homage. They simply remind us how much less impressive this film is than its models.

YouTube link: Hibbert fails to jump a train.

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