Amos & Andrew

(E. Max Frye, USA, 1993)


Although nothing in its publicity reflects the fact, Amos & Andrew is the directing debut of E. Max Frye, who wrote Jonathan Demme’s terrific Something Wild (1986) while still in his early twenties.

This debut does not start promisingly: wacky comedy music, a horde of bumbling suburban nuts familiar from many films of the ’80s and a rather laboured exposition introducing celebrity Andrew (Samuel L. Jackson) as the only Afro-American in a affluent, all-white community.

It rapidly gets better, however, once Andrew is under heavy siege from the local police in his own dream home, suspected of being a violent criminal. Once the police chief (Dabney Coleman) realises his error he releases from jail an actual criminal, Amos (Nicolas Cage), on an elaborate cover-up mission. Amos, however, has other plans, and Andrew has to choose whether or not he wishes to be his accomplice in subversion.

Beyond the easy laughs, simple pratfalls and conventional Hollywood sentiments that fill out parts of the film, Frye is most successful when he sketches out a caustic diagram of the power relations in this frenetic society.

Every move in the game between the protagonists and the police hinges on modes of communication – from megaphones to broadcast television via the ubiquitous domestic video camera.

The film is full of knowing, witty references to everything from the trial of the Chicago Seven to university Cultural Studies curricula. Amid the general mugging of the cast, Nicolas Cage shines as the laconic Amos, pulling at the social fabric just enough so that it unravels before his eyes and he can wisely comment: "What goes around, comes around."

© Adrian Martin March 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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