I expected a Burt Reynolds star vehicle, but Fuzz proves an ensemble black comedy chronicling the inept detectives of Boston’s 87th precinct.
Adapted by Ed McBain from his own novels, much of the film happens inside the precinct amid an interior repaint. Drop cloths and scaffolding surround the officers trying to work amid the ever talking painters. The dialog overlaps, conveying a convincing sense of chaos.
The ensemble cast shares screen-time. Reynolds goes undercover as a bum to investigate arson attacks on the city’s homeless population. His ruse attracts the assailant but, in a recurring theme, he fumbles the execution and winds up on fire.
Raquel Welch joins the force and goes undercover to catch a rapist. She becomes involved with another detective played by a young Tom Skerritt, and the two fumble a sting by fooling around in a sleeping bag, their antics caught on a live microphone. Said sting also features Reynolds dressed as a nun.
These antics imply a zany comedy but, though the cops prove incompetent, the crooks do not. The burns hospitalize Reynolds. The rapist throttles Welch. An unknown ransomer assassinates city officials, sniping one between the eyes in an early chilling scene.
This tonal dissonance kept me at arm’s length throughout the first two acts, but things gel in the third. Yul Brynner appears as the mastermind behind the ransom demands in a role akin to a Bond villain. This proves the missing piece, with the now-heightened crooks matching the heightened cops.
The various outstanding cases and plot-threads culminate in an improbable three-for-one ending that provides the film’s biggest laugh when Reynolds, recognizing the happenstance of their success and disgusted by the whole affair, says they’re nothing but garbagemen. His partner disagrees, saying, “Nah, look, this was based on good sound police work.”
Fuzz isn’t perfect. It’s not even good, per se. But it grew on me. In the days after, I’d chuckle, remembering lines like Reynolds, ducking for cover caught in a surprise crossfire, asking who was shooting at them, and, upon being told it was the police, saying, “What police? We’re the police!”
Should I revisit this down the road, it wouldn’t surprise me if I rated it higher.