Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Hitchcock has us thinking of “innocent man wrongly accused” movies.
The Wrong Guy (1997)
The hapless, luckless, and thoroughly oblivious protagonist of the winning 1997 comedy The Wrong Guy has a lot in common with the luckless leads in Hitchcock (and Hitchcockian) mistaken-identity thrillers. Dave Foley stumbles upon a bloody crime, accidentally covers himself in seemingly damning evidence, and then flees in terror. The big difference? No one is actually looking for Foley’s shameless corporate toady, as the murder he thinks he’s accused of has been captured on camera and the police know just who committed the crime. The Wrong Guy is consequently an anti-thriller, where all the thriller elements have been reversed or negated.
The Wrong Guy is a deft parody of the wrong-man subgenre that replaces the tension, paranoia, and wrongful persecution of Hitchcock’s oeuvre with genial good humor and clever running gags, the most inspired of which involves a corpulent and lazy cop (David Anthony Higgins) who seems to have gotten into law enforcement solely for the perks and leads his men on a pursuit that has nothing to do with finding the killer and everything to do with squandering as much money as possible. Foley is hilarious and charming as a panicked goof convinced he’s a wanted fugitive, a consummate straight man giving a wonderfully unhinged performance opposite supporting players who respond to his palpable desperation with deadpan understatement. The Wrong Guy, which Foley also co-wrote, should have launched his career as a leading man. Instead it received a discreet direct-to-video burial, but today it stands as a testament to what Foley’s film career could and should have been.
Availability: It’s out of print for purchase, but available on Netflix.