This film does not demand a lot from its audience- it deals in exaggerated absolutes: large-suited wealthy businessmen; spunky, free-spirited bicyclists; and sadistic crime lords populate the city. Details and logical "if/then/so" rationalizations are thrown to the wayside, likely sacrificed in order to bring the audience 5-minute montages of bicycle-assisted ballet routines and bike punks performing two- and one-wheeled circus tricks. To which I say, you do you, movie.
Starring Kevin Bacon, Jami Gertz, Paul Rodriguez, and Laurence (aka "Larry") Fishburne. Directed by Jeff Bleckner, 1986.
In the office, Jack's pinky ring explains over the phone to his trading partner how his crazy get-rich scheme is going to work. A lot of the finer details are lost on me, but I think it involves buying low and selling high. Unfortunately for Jack, however, things do not pan out as he'd hoped, and he loses millions of his employer's dollars. More crucially, however, he's also floundered his parents' life savings. Although Jack's father waves it off as no big deal, Jack later catches the old man sobbing with despair at the dining room table.
At this point Jack sees a bike in a thrift store window and apparently has his life-changing revelation. I say "apparently" because none of this is extrapolated or dwelled upon. In other words, there is no montage showing how Jack Casey catches the cycling bug- a huge oversight for an 80s movie. The next time we see Jack, clad in the beret from the film's opening, he's already an old pro at Quicksilver messengers and is being introduced to new girl Terri (Gertz) by Hector (Rodriguez). Terri's arrival at Quicksilver provides a clunky platform for Hector's necessary exposition as we meet a number of bike messengers, most of whom are never seen again, let alone seen on a bike (I'm talking about you, Louie Anderson). The most important of these is Voodoo (Fishburne), swaggering and confident, who supplements the manila envelopes being shuttled between business towers with more nefarious deliveries for neighborhood crime boss Gypsy.
To his detriment, Voodoo has gotten too comfortable with Gypsy, and makes the mistake of shorting him on one of his runs. Gypsy tracks down Voodoo and, at the end of a friendly race between Voodoo and Jack, Gypsy plows into Voodoo with his car. Jack watches with horror as Voodoo is killed, frozen to the spot as Gypsy turns the car around and locks eyes with him, as if to say "you're next." With Voodoo out of the way, Gypsy cajoles Terri into becoming his new courier with a combination of cash, sleazy charm, and intimidation.
Jack is becoming a real pro at his job, to the point of cockiness. He's such a hot ticket that the secretaries at the office buildings he frequents are giving him their phone numbers! Hubba hubba.
While Jack researches the foolproof plan to raise capital for Hector, Terri stands up to Gypsy and tells him she is no longer running his packages. He beats her but is chased off when her coworkers come to her rescue. She runs to Jack's warehouse, where he keeps her safe.
The next day, Jack gets to work for Hector at the stock exchange. Hector has to run off mid-day because his wife has gone into labor; Jack shows up at the hospital that evening to hand Hector a big fat wad of cash: their gamble has paid off. Immediately afterwards, a nurse comes out and announces the birth of Hector's son. Hooray, a happy ending!
Except oh wait, Gypsy's still out there causing trouble and being generally intimidating. Jack lures him into a chase on his bicycle from his warehouse through a warren of alleyways and industrial warehouses. Jack is hiding from Gypsy's car in an alley when a nearby mural of a half-demolished overpass gives him an idea. Finding Gypsy once again, Jack leads him onto an elevated roadway and through a construction site. Riding through a cloud of steam, Jack pulls to the right at the last minute, and Gypsy, following behind, slams on the brakes too late: he flies off the unfinished end of the overpass and onto the street below, presumably dying in the process.
An undetermined period of time later, Jack and Terri meet downtown. They're both wearing nice clothes and excitedly exchanging updates about their day: Jack has had several promising job interviews, and Terri is enrolling in a program to become a certified EMT. They debate where to eat lunch and end up grabbing hot dogs from- where else- Hector's new stand. Now here's your happy ending.
One detail that really dated this movie (for me, at least) is that there is nary a helmet or U-lock to be seen. I've known a few bike messengers and heard their worst stories. For anyone attempting to earn a living on a bike in the city without a lock or a helmet, it's not a question of if but when their bike will be jacked and their heads smashed. But in 1986, everyone's hair had taken so much effort that no one wanted to hide it or ruin it with a helmet. That, and public education about the importance of helmets hadn't really started yet. Helmets were still something for little kids, instead of something for anyone who wishes to significantly improve their chances of retaining the use of their limbs, brains, or lives.
Authenticity: 7/10*- *Please note this authenticity rating is applicable only in the year 15001986 AD, which is when Los Angeles and San Francisco will finally line up next to each other along the San Andreas fault.
Montage Rating: 6/10 Star Wipes- Quicksilver has some great montages. Name any other film that shows a ballerina arching gracefully while balanced on the wheel pegs of a fixie. You can't, can you? However, this movie would greatly benefit from a montage of Jack and his new bike becoming One.
Overall: Your co-worker texts you that he's bringing ten dozen donuts to the office. When you get in, you see he bought Tasty Kake donuts from Walgreen's. You still eat ten, because a donut is a fucking donut.
References & Further Reading
Quicksilver on Wikipedia
Quicksilver filming locations (including Los Angeles locations)
Thank you for reading, and extra special thanks to my old friend Jennifer No, who not only endured this movie with me, but also came up with the joke about bandaging a scrape with secretaries' phone numbers. Woman! I love you!