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Friday, 24 August 2012

In 1986, a Kevin Bacon vehicle called Quicksilver hit theaters, immediately sending my 12-year-old self into fits of giggles.

I don't know why I knew, even then, that it looked lame, but I did. Twelve-year-olds can be surprisingly discerning.

For the record, I have no idea whether Quicksilver is lame or not. I never saw it. All I know for sure is that a couple friends of mine started referring to it as Quicksilverzzzzzzz. I don't know if the "zzzzzzz" was actually supposed to be part of the title, or just a noise that followed it, but the "zzzzzzz" represented the sound of the gears of Bacon's bike, whirring at impossible speeds, as featured prominently in the trailer.

As I have spent the last 25 years referring to this movie as Quicksilverzzzzzzz on the rare occasions it comes up (maybe once every three or four years), I decided to watch the trailer again just now to see if that gear-whirring sound was actually prominent as our urban lore suggests it was. Because of this wonderful little thing we have called the internet, it was easy.

Okay, yes. Bacon spins a gear in his hand, which is almost certainly where we came up with the "zzzzzzz" suffix on the film's title. But like most things that turn into enduring jokes, the source material had to be exaggerated significantly. (I love that the trailer uses still imagery. When was the last time you saw that? Also, check out the young Laurence Fishburne, back when he was called Larry.)

What made me think of Quicksilver today was, of course, the release of Premium Rush, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I doubt it really has much in common with Quicksilver, plot-wise -- it's just that so few movies are made about bike messengers that I couldn't help but link the two of them. Kind of like how Donnie Darko reminds you a bit of Harvey, because so few movies are made about six-foot-tall talking rabbits.

Here are the plot summaries from IMDB. First, Quicksilver:

Jack Casey ('Kevin Bacon' )used to be a hot-shot stock market whiz kid. After a disastrous professional decision, his life in the fast lane is over. He loses his nerve and joins a speed delivery firm which relies on bicycles to avoid traffic jams of San Francisco, is attracted to a fellow bicycler, Terri, and befriends Hector, a budding entrepreneur. Can Jack regain his nerve and his self-respect, and rebuild his life on a more sound basis?

(I love how Bacon's name appears in quotation marks.)

And Premium Rush:

In Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city.

(I guess they've really streamlined the plot summaries on IMDB.)

It's interesting to consider how the former movie could never be made today. Unless there's some bit of criminal intrigue that is not being mentioned in this synopsis, Quicksilver is basically just a story of personal redemption set against the background of Oliver Stone's Wall Street. Way too simple for 2012. In 2012, there has to be dirty cops, MacGuffins and the constant fear of death and dismemberment.

Much as I shake my head at the commercial demands of modern cinema, I bet Premium Rush is the more interesting watch.


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