Ruthless People (1986) from Tuna

Ruthless People (1986) is one of those comedies that has a gazillion plot elements to tell the story. It works anyway, largely due to the cast. Danny DeVito is plotting to kill fat, bitchy wife Bette Midler, so he can inherit her money and marry Anita Morris. Morris, on the other hand, plans to video tape the murder to blackmail DeVito.

Judge Reinhold and wife Helen Slater kidnap Midler before DeVito can kill her, but when they threaten to kill her if he doesn't pay, his dream has come true. Morris's boyfriend video tapes the police chief with a hooker (Jeannine Bisignano) by mistake. That puts most of the elements in place, other than the bedroom killer on the loose.


Jeannine Bisignano (License to Kill, My Chauffeur) shows breasts as the hooker, but mostly on a TV screen when people watch the video tape.
Ebert awards 3 1/2 stars, largely due to DeVito's performance. He points out that DeVito plays a "lovable villain" better than anyone else. This has some crossover value because of the fine performances, the art direction, and the great cinematography from Jan de Bont (Die Hard / Basic Instinct / The Hunt for Red October).
Scoop's comments:

My favorite gag in the film is the cut from the scene where the kidnappers give DeVito his instructions:

"If you call the police, your wife will be killed. If you inform any media at all, your wife will be killed. Do you understand?

"I think so"

Cut to an outside shot of his house surrounded by police cars and media vans.

The Critics Vote

  • Ebert 3.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: a moderate hit. Domestic gross $71.6 million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. (Scoopy: C+ or B-)

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