The Wrong Guy (David Steinberg)
Dave Foley is currently one of the best comedic talents working in film. Unfortunately, he’s often found his way into supporting roles in abysmal fare like Blast from the Past and It’s Pat. In his most successful film, A Bug's Life, he doesn’t even appear onscreen. Fans of Foley were disappointed in The Kids in the Hall’s 1996 feature debut, Brain Candy, in which he appeared least of all the members of the troupe. His work on television’s Newsradio left him little time to participate in the project—he didn’t even contribute enough to merit a writing credit. In 1997, he completed work on The Wrong Guy, a feature that allowed him to show off his abilities in a starring role. Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it—after debuting at the Aspen Comedy and Arts Festival, the film is only available on video in Canada and has yet to find a US distributor.
Written by Dave Foley, David Higgins and Jay Kogen, The Wrong Guy parodies Hitchcockian "man on the run" tales, like The Wrong Man and North by Northwest. Director David Steinberg plays with Hitchcock motifs such as trains, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore after the film begins with a wonderful opening credits sequence that recalls some of Saul Bass’ better work. The musical score by Lawrence Schragge is highlighted with paranoid stirrings of Bernard Herrmann.
Dim-witted, well-meaning Nelson Hibbert (Foley) is a promising young executive at Nagel Industries. Angered after being passed over for a promised promotion, Hibbert storms into his boss’ office only to discover Nagel with a knife embedded in the base of his skull. Hibbert manages to incriminate himself, getting blood all on his suit and his fingerprints on the murder weapon. Looking guilty as sin, Hibbert flees the scene, assuming the police will think that he committed the heinous crime. Unbeknownst to him, the murder was caught on video and the police—led by reluctant Detective Arlen (David Higgins)—are searching for the real murderer (brilliantly played by Colm Feore).
On the lam to Mexico, Hibbert’s path frequently crosses the murderer’s—taking the jeep the killer has abandoned, staying at the same hotel, et cetera. The assassin mistakes Hibbert as a super sleuth like Bill Murray was perceived to be in The Man Who Knew Too Little. Meanwhile, Detective Arlen is more concerned with running up his expense account (taking time to visit New York to catch "Moby!" the new Broadway musical based on Moby Dick) than solving the crime.
Playing like a dyslexic version of The Fugitive, Steinberg shrewdly displays a great knack for comedic timing while doing a highly credible job handling the film’s few action scenes. Though the film has a rather threadbare plot, its real strengths are the performances. Foley is expert at playing the senseless hero of the film who’s mistaken more often for a woman than for being Nagel’s killer. David Higgins threatens to steal the show, especially when going to a strip club in hopes of getting some leads while watching the girls dance. Jennifer Tilly is commendable as Hibbert’s love interest, Lynn, a narcoleptic who’s a "pretty good judge of people, except for that one guy who said he was an advanced scout for an alien invasion force but it turned out he just wanted to get in my pants." Joe Flaherty turns in a surprising performance as Lynn’s father; a small-town banker cut from the same cloth as It's A Wonderful Life’s George Bailey. Also, there are cameos by Foley’s fellow Kid in the Hall, Kevin McDonald and Canadian rockers, The Barenaked Ladies.
The movie is not afraid to take some nonsensical turns; creating subplots and deliberately discarding them, peppering scenes with sight gags and building jokes with layer upon layer of absurdity. The writers play with the audience’s expectations as well as comedic filmmaking conventions. The result is The Wrong Guy being one of the most consistently entertaining, sophisticated farces in the past few years. So make some friends with some Canadians—finding The Wrong Guy is well worth the inconvenience!