Man Who Knew Too Little

Man Who Knew Too Little

4.3 3
Director: Jon Amiel

Cast: Bill Murray, Peter Gallagher, Joanne Whalley

     
 

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Jon Amiel directed this satire on mistaken-identity thrillers and the spy genre, scripted by Robert Farrar, Tim John, and Oliver Butcher from Farrar's unpublished novel, Watch That Man. In the female lead, Joanne Whalley returned to films after a three-year absence, choosing to do so with director Amiel. Farrar's Hitchcockian-style story focuses on naiveSee more details below

Overview

Jon Amiel directed this satire on mistaken-identity thrillers and the spy genre, scripted by Robert Farrar, Tim John, and Oliver Butcher from Farrar's unpublished novel, Watch That Man. In the female lead, Joanne Whalley returned to films after a three-year absence, choosing to do so with director Amiel. Farrar's Hitchcockian-style story focuses on naive Blockbuster Video clerk Wallace Ritchie (Bill Murray) who travels from Des Moines, Iowa, to London to celebrate his birthday with his wealthy younger brother, James (Peter Gallagher). When he turns up on the same night that James has plans to attend a high-profile client dinner party (that he hopes will bring him millions from a German investment firm), James needs to keep Wallace away during the evening, so he gives Wallace a ticket to the participatory Theater of Life. The theater game requires Wallace to assume a character and interact with actors portraying people in dramatic situations. At the corner phone booth, the initial call should begin the evening of innocent fun. However, the phone instructions Wallace receives are actually intended for an assassin, part of a scheme to end the current UK regime and revive the Cold War. The real assassin gets the call from the Theater of Life. Blissfully unaware, Wallace walks without fear into a complex web of intrigue involving defense ministers, call girls, and Russian hitmen. For Wallace, all the world's a stage, and he's amazed at the skill of the actors, including beautiful enigmatic Lori (Joanne Whalley) -- while Wallace's pursuers are mystified by their adversary's fearlessness in the face of threats, torture and bullets. Farrar got the idea for this comedy from a chance remark at a party: "The inspiration came from a dinner party, when somebody told me about these strange live theater performances which were all the rage in England in the '80s. The idea was to telephone for instructions if you wanted to take part. My immediate reaction was, 'Wouldn't it be fabulous if somebody got the wrong number, and it all went hopelessly wrong?'" Filming took place in London's East End (Three Mills Studios), at a variety of London locations, and just outside London at the Elstree Film Studios.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Karl Williams
A high-concept comedy in which Bill Murray -- who is perhaps too cerebral a comic presence for the clueless role he's been assigned -- manages to pull off one of his best performances. He may have started out playing mentally challenged whack jobs in films such as Caddyshack (1980) and Stripes (1981), but Murray has always shined brightest as characters who are intellectually snide and above it all. Here he's required to fill the part of a video store manager too dim to get that he's actually embroiled in a real-life espionage drama, engaged in what he believes to be a role-playing game. A Hitchcock-style thriller by way of a TV situation comedy, the film is a clever comic idea but would seem to call for the lead to be almost energetically stupid, a buffoon in an overcoat, very likely the way somebody such as Jim Carrey would tackle the job. Instead, Murray underplays the hero, disengaging from what's going on around him and blithely drifting rather than dumbly stumbling through his adventures, a truly interesting choice that makes his clueless quality more believable. What is so pleasantly surprising is that he's not playing the character as too stupid to understand what's happening, but instead is seizing on the man's languid lack of ambition as the real underlying cause of his inability to wise up. In Murray's hands, the hero is not an idiot, he's just too zonked-out to care. It's a brilliant choice that changes the dynamics between him and every other character and a terrific example of a dexterous performer doing some amazing work. What should have been nothing more than a forgettable but briefly enjoyable farce becomes, along with Quick Change (1990), one of Murray's most underrated films and one that's definitely worth a second look for his fans.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/28/1998
UPC:
0085391562634
Original Release:
1997
Rating:
PG
Source:
Warner Home Video

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Bill Murray Wallace Ritchie
Peter Gallagher James Ritchie
Joanne Whalley Lori
Alfred Molina Boris
Richard Wilson Sir Roger Daggenhurst
Geraldine James Dr. Ludmilla Kropotkin
John Standing Embleton
Anna Chancellor Barbara Ritchie
Nicholas Woodeson Sergei
Simon Chandler Hawkins
John Thomson Actor

Technical Credits
Jon Amiel Director
Joe Caracciola Executive Producer
Jim Clay Production Designer
Robert Farrar Screenwriter
Howard Franklin Screenwriter
Gerry Gavigan Asst. Director
Maggie Gray Set Decoration/Design
Michelle Guish Casting
Paul Karasick Editor
Simon Kaye Sound/Sound Designer
Arnon Milchan Producer
Michael Nathanson Producer
Pamela Power Editor
Elizabeth Robinson Executive Producer
Chris Seagers Art Director
Robert M. Stevens Cinematographer
Mark Tarlov Producer
Madeline Warren Co-producer
Janty Yates Costumes/Costume Designer
Christopher Young Score Composer

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