HEAR HEAR

Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN -

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) Se­lected by Chris Hewitt, As­so­ciate Ed­i­tor (Re.view)

The third col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Wilder and Richard Pryor, See No Evil, Hear No Evil never quite lives up to the prom­ise of its high con­cept — Pryor is blind, Wilder is deaf; they’re framed for mur­der — and is of­ten crass. But it has its mo­ments. There’s the in­fa­mous scene where Wilder holds a naked Joan Sev­er­ance at gun­point, only for the bulge in his pocket to be re­vealed as a boner. Then there’s the far­ci­cal car chase with Pryor driv­ing, Wilder nav­i­gat­ing, and ev­ery­one else duck­ing for cover.

But the film’s stand­out comes im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, when Pryor’s Wally is try­ing to saw through the hand­cuffs of Wilder’s Dave. Sud­denly, he has a thought: can Dave re­ally hear noth­ing? What if he tries shout­ing right into Dave’s ear? And so he does, prompt­ing Dave to break down, as if he’s had an emo­tional epiphany. “Did it work?” asks Wally. Dave leans in. “NO! SCHMUCK!” he yells. “I’M DEAF! NOW DO YOU GET IT?”

No­body could work them­selves into a frenzy quite like Wilder, and that abil­ity is on full dis­play here. First, there’s his be­atific ex­pres­sion as Wally shouts in his ear — how Wilder man­aged to keep a straight face as Pryor bel­lowed at him from six inches away is a marvel — and then comes the fury, that in­stantly recog­nis­able voice ris­ing sev­eral oc­taves to a stran­gu­lated scream. It’s also a joke, un­like most oth­ers in Arthur Hiller’s film, that isn’t pok­ing fun at ei­ther Dave or Wally’s dis­abil­i­ties — of course, it stems from Dave’s deaf­ness, but here he’s com­pletely in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion. Wilder re­port­edly only agreed to take the film on if he were al­lowed to re­write the screen­play, and it’s not hard to imag­ine that this rare mo­ment of quiet dig­nity, build­ing to a killer punch­line, came from him.

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