Rock and Roll has been the epitome of cool for quite some time, certainly for most of my lifetime, even though it is the epitome of an industry that’s full of seedy excesses. What is needed is a tongue-in-cheek look at all the irrationality in relation to the music industry. That’s exactly what Rex Weiner did in his late 70s early 80s serials, that got adapted by Andrew Dice Clay in the 1990 cult film, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.
Ford Fairlane is a Los Angeles based music industry private investigator, or Rock & Roll Detective, who also happens to drive a Ford Fairlane car. Ford is sent on a complex case when the lead singer of a Heavy Metal band dies on stage, and a frenemy of Ford’s, a local shock-jockey hires Ford to track down his missing daughter who may have something to do with the death. Now he’s involved in a convoluted web of mystery involving, compact disks, koalas and contract-killers.
Andrew Dice Clay is the comic turned film star and fits in swimmingly with the rest of this cast as a natural comedic talent, who understands how to be the butt of the joke as well as the guy who’s telling it, in a rather self-deprecating way. The film takes any chance it can get to smash the fourth wall and mess with the audiences pre-conceived notions and tropes while using all the stories and everything you’ve secretly suspected about the music industry to make a fully realised world for the characters to inhabit.
Fairlane can be smart, but it’s elevated by the films cast to be so much more, you’ve got a young Gilbert Gottfried, in his element as an obnoxious yet hilarious shock jockey. You’ve got future Married with Children star Ed O’Neill as a former disco singer turned grizzled cop (complete with the perfect hit single “Booty Time”). But it wouldn’t be a film about the music industry without an excellent soundtrack, featuring both generic but appropriate rock interludes and officially licensed songs, from Billy Idol all the way to Jimi Hendrix. It’s these tunes and more that will have you nodding your head with the beat as well as in contemplation of the plot.
With its abundance of style and love of classic rock & roll aesthetic, combined with the same early 90s look that makes it a pleasing film to watch, but it’s the stellar cast and their combined comedic wit that turns Fairlane into a comedic and compelling detective story that ambitiously grows in complexity, like if a Raymond Chandler novel me Ray Romano, and remains as absurd and hilarious throughout. Ford Fairlane has all the makings of a cult classic, and in this case, I’m talking about the character and the film, not the car.
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