"Come down and see the mile of cars we have on our lot."
There are not many movies out about the auto industry, and car sales in particular. There's "The Goods", "Suckers" and this movie, "Used Cars". Having dipped my toe into the auto industry as a "car sales person", and I use that term loosely, it's a long story and I'm saving it for my memoirs. Let's just say that I lost the rabbit and became disinterested in the industry. It was never for me, I have always known what I wanted to do (movie reviews, being a radio DJ, being an entertainer) but I lacked the focus. Enough about my psychological profile. There aren't many movies about car sales. Two of them are, what I deem, good.
If you haven't seen "Used Cars", do yourself a favor and go and rent it. Not because you can glean any sort of insider knowledge on how to get over on the sales person when buying a car, but because Kurt Russell and Jack Warden really bring this movie together. Jack Warden plays twin brothers Roy and Luke Fuchs. Roy Fuch's wants to buy his brother Luke's lot because, his dealership is about to be demolished and turned into a freeway on ramp.
Kurt Russell plays the "car guy". The "car guy" is the guy that has the charisma, the ability to talk his way out of (or into) any situation. He isn't listening to listen to people, he's listening with the intent on answering any question with a quick reply, a quip or some sort of joke. Nothing he really says means anything, it's done to occupy the customer and keep them from walking off the lot and going somewhere else to purchase a car. Russell really plays his character (Rudy Russo) well. His ability to be friendly without becoming a friend and adapting to any situation is exactly what is talked about in the Friday morning meetings.
The auto industry takes a back seat to Zemeckis and Gales script. It's important, only as a back drop. The story is American as mom, baseball and apple pie. Small business owners trying to make a buck and stopping the big guys from taking their piece of the pie (for lack of a better term). Kurt Russell's character, Rudy, has bigger ambitions. He wants to run for senate. Luke just wants to sell cars and his brother Roy wants run his brother out of business and be a big fish in a small pond.
When Luke Fuchs dies, Russell and the rest of the small dealership cast have to lie to make sure that Roy doesn't find out that Luke has died, so they can keep their jobs, keep the lot and Russell can get his money that Luke promised him, to run for senate. There's a wrench in all of this. Luke's daughter, Barbara (played by Deborah Harmon) comes into town and Russell has to make sure she doesn't find out her father has died.
It all comes to pass, like most Hollywood movies, it has a happy ending. Roy tries to get they dealership by nefarious means and Russell is able to save the day by using the money he was going to spend on his senate race to help save the dealership. It's not about the ending though. The movie in and of itself has plenty of classic scenes. Especially the commercials. Everything from blowing up cars to nearly naked women are used to sell the cars and they work.
That's the fun of this movie. It doesn't take itself too seriously, it doesn't try to be anything other than a low budget comedy. Russell, Warden and the others are perfect in their roles, especially Warden as he plays both Roy and Luke Fuchs. He's able to get different looks and personalities to these characters and make them believable.
It's one thing to make a movie and have it be a slick and polished production, with everyone having an answer to everything and the quick comebacks. It's another to be able to make a movie that has flawed, pretentious characters of questionable morality, that looks like a slick and polished production and have it become a cult classic because of it's quick one-liners and snappy quotable lines.
That's why Zemeckis and Bob Gale are true craftsman of film. It's becoming more and more noticeable these days that true filmmakers are a rare breed. Anybody can make a movie these days, hell, anybody can make a huge blockbuster these days, but it takes true talent to be able to make a memorable and fun movie that resonates with people 30 years after it has been made.
Rating - 6.5 out of 10
Used Cars (1980)
R | 1h 53min | Comedy | 11 July 1980 (USA)
When the owner of a struggling used car lot is killed, it's up to the lot's hot-shot salesman to save the property from falling into the hands of the owner's ruthless brother and used-car rival.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Stars: Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, Gerrit Graham