Two years before Quentin Tarantino unleashed Reservoir Dogs, there was a different American directorial debut that found more drama in the aftermath of a heist than in the robbery itself. Only instead of a postmodern pastiche of the history of crime movies, this one was a bizarre, acid-tongued and increasingly surreal comedy. Quick Change was co-directed by star Bill Murray (his only directorial credit to date) and Howard Franklin, who also adapted the screenplay from Jay Cronley’s novel.
After an extended opening sequence detailing an ingenious Manhattan bank robbery that also gives Murray ample opportunity to deadpan hilariously in full clown regalia, the nature of the story shifts. Having pulled off the job, all Murray and his accomplices, played by Geena Davis and Randy Quaid, have to do is get to the airport. But across boroughs and in taxicabs, buses and on foot, the three encounter a series of progressively outlandish and grotesque obstacles as the city seems to be pulling them back into itself.
Superficially but pervasively, Quick Change appears to be a film about the inherent, inescapable awfulness of New York City. Of course, like all movies about how punishing a place it can be, it’s really a mash note. You have to love New York to hate it this much.