Friday 19 October 2018

P.O.W - The Escape

Historians will tell you that the Vietnam War ended in 1975. And technically, that’s true. But in the Philippines, the conflict kind-of-continued to rage long into the Eighties.

That’s because enterprising B-movie producers discovered that the exotic, forest-strewn country made for an ideal Vietnam substitute – the perfect place to knock-out cheapo, straight-to-video versions of Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter.

The Philippines had everything they needed: plentiful jungle locations, a ready supply of locals who could be passed off as Vietnamese extras, and a government happy to hire out its military to any filmmaker with a suitcase of dosh. (The fact that that the country’s President was the fabulously corrupt Ferdinand Marcos was presumably just a coincidence.)

Ultimately, this happy confluence of circumstances spawned – without exaggeration – hundreds of ‘Nam-sploitation movies during the Eighties. And they included: POW – The Escape (1986).

The plot

The Gawd-loving US Army detects an evil Vietcong prison camp that’s holding American POWs. Hell, no! Their answer: send in swarthy Colonel James Cooper, to say things like ‘We have eyes on the package’ and effect an immediate extraction of the caged heroes. So far, so impressive. Only thing is, much like Uncle Sam’s participation in the actual conflict, the rescue plan quickly goes utterly tits up.

Fast forward a scene, and Cooper now finds himself imprisoned in the very same hellhole as the soldiers he was supposed to be liberating. Like, d’oh.

So, will the brave Colonel simply spend the rest of the war crying and eating beetles in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’? Or will he be able to make a sneaky escape from Vietcong’s clutches? It’s a total mystery. If only there was a clue in the title…

Who’s in this?

Courageous Colonel Cooper is played by David Carradine. The Kill Bill star, once captured, is tied-up and thrown into a bamboo cage. It’s all meant to break the spirit of the foreign invader. But as we know from the actor’s sad demise by auto-asphyxiation, our Dave actually rather enjoyed being painfully trussed-up in a cramped space. He probably wrote that scene himself.

Alongside Carradine, B-movie fan favourite Steve James (American Ninja, The Delta Force, McBain) appears as an escape-hungry prisoner. Big Steve has never been in imminent danger of winning an Oscar, but his larger-than-life persona adds welcome energy to the screen.

Also making an appearance in this movie is – quelle surprise! – Asian utility actor Mako. Japanese by birth, Mako was the man Hollywood called whenever they needed someone ‘oriental’. Over the years he played characters from China, Tibet, Singapore, Vietnam and even, radically, Japan.

Filipino war movie aficionados also have a chance here to spot the legendary bit-part actor, James Gaines. “Who he?” you ask. Well, Gaines was one of a number of Philippines-based Americans who ended up accidentally falling into an acting career.

Here’s the thing: filmmakers shooting in the Filippino jungle perennially needed western faces to bulk out their casts. So Gaines and a handful of other loafers – despite having no appreciable acting ability and precious little motivation – gradually became a sort of impromptu stock company for ‘Nam-sploitation movies. The ‘Slack Pack’, for want of a better phrase.

Billed simply as ‘prisoner of war #5’, this was just one of six films Gaines made that year – with such edifying titles as Dog Tags, Strike Commando, Jungle Rats, and Commando Invasion.

Working at a similar pace throughout the Eighties, it’s probably fair to say that Big Jim saw more action in Vietnam than those poor buggers who actually fought in the war.

War, huh, what is it good for?

“War: what is it good for?” asked soul legend Edwin Starr in his famous Vietnam protest song.

“Absolutely nuthin’” was his conclusion. But in this case, it’d be fairer to say: a no more than reasonable level of entertainment. (Which admittedly, isn’t as catchy).

POW – The Escape is a deeply average film. It’s so middle of the road it should have white lines painted on it. Sure, there are plenty of gun battles and exploding huts (a trusted ‘Nam staple), and the acting is fine. But there’s nothing to lift the film out of its foxhole of utter averageness.

Exploding helicopter action

Realising that the raid on the POW camp has gone wrong, David Carradine and his men attempt to ‘get to da choppa’ © and make their escape. Unfortunately, one of the Vietnamese soldiers is packing a rocket launcher. Charlie takes aim at the aircraft and “bazookas” it out of the sky. Bullesye!

Artistic merit

Helicopter lovers will be relieved to know that no real helicopters were harmed in the making of this film. A bit of trick editing – which is actually rather decently done - switches the shot between the airborne chopper and an impressively large fireball.

Exploding Helicopter particularly liked the way debris, including a couple of unconvincing dummies, were incorporated into the explosion.

The sequence is given a poignant finale with David Carradine getting to gaze forlornly at the whirlybird wreckage.

Favourite quote

Danny Glover may have immortalised the line a year later in Lethal Weapon. But David Carradine gets there first, wearily mumbling: “I’m getting to old for this shit”.

Review by: Jafo

Check out the review of P.O.W - The Escape by our friends Comeuppance Reviews

Saturday 15 September 2018

The Gauntlet

Does art imitate life, or life imitate art?

It’s a question that has troubled both the great minds of Greek philosophy and anyone who’s ever watched The Gauntlet. (Admittedly, not two audiences you generally find in each other’s company.)

A brief explainer: the 1977 film stars Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke, who were then a real-life couple. In the movie, Clint plays a callous, cruel, cold-hearted cop who treats the witness he’s meant to protect (Locke) like dirt.

At the time, Eastwood’s bullying behaviour just seemed part of his gritty role and the plot’s ‘odd couple’ premise. But in the wake of the couple’s acrimonious split a decade later, it turned out that, oh, Clint wasn’t really acting.

Amid the fallout of their venomous and lawyer-heavy break-up, rumblings began. Keen-eyed observers noted that there were obvious parallels between the callous, cruel, cold-hearted bastard who treated Locke like shit-on-a-shoe and the character he played in in the movie. (Boom! See what we did there?)

Suddenly, The Gauntlet was transformed from a disposable, throwaway thriller to a sombre piece of documentary evidence worthy of earnest philosophical study. (And of course, close examination by a website dedicated to rotor-assisted conflagration. Consider this Exploding Helicopter’s official ‘Me too’ moment.)

The plot

A drunken, ne’er do well, cop (Clint Eastwood) is tasked with escorting a prisoner (Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas to Phoenix. His charge is a gobby prostitute who’s scheduled to appear as a witness in a big court case.

It should be a routine prison transfer, but someone isn’t keen for the cantankerous call-girl to take the stand. Within minutes of starting their journey, the mismatched pair – who fight like two rats in a sack – find themselves pursued by a couple of hitmen. And the situation quickly gets worse when they discover that the Vegas police force is also trying to bump them off. Yikes.

Realising they’re in the middle of a vast conspiracy and with no-one to trust, the pair go ‘off the grid’ in an effort to complete their journey as they run….. the gauntlet.

The cast

Locke and Eastwood – essentially the Brad and Angelina of their day – were in a relationship from the mid-Seventies until 1989, during which time co-starred in six films (including The Outlaw Josey Wales, Bronco Billy and Sudden Impact). But few movies have ever crashed as publicly and violently as their own picture-perfect partnership finally did in the late Eighties. It was one of the bitterest bust-ups in Hollywood history.

How bitter, you ask? Well, Locke recounted – at length – the full grisly details of the couple’s eventful relationship in her dirt-dishing autobiography, ironically titled The Good, The Bad and The Very Ugly.

In the book, the Oscar-nominated actress recounted how ‘Squint’ had curtailed her promising acting career by getting her to appear almost exclusively in his projects. (Locke appeared in only a handful of non-Clint films).

Not content with controlling her professional life, Eastwood – adamant that he didn’t want to be a father – persuaded Locke to have two abortions and then get her tubes tied. (Although that didn’t stop the caddish Clint fathering two children with a woman he was seeing on the side).

And after they broke-up, the Man With No Scruples allegedly used his Hollywood pull to sabotage her attempts to work as a director. (After multiple projects were mysteriously nixed, Locke sued, and received an out of court settlement). As Locke reflected after publishing her book, “I wish I’d read it, not lived it.”

All of which provides an interesting lens through which to view The Gauntlet. Throughout the film, Clint orders Locke around with contemptuous disdain. And when she doesn’t comply, she quickly finds herself tied-up, gagged and even knocked out with sleeping gas.

“Miserable bitch,” Old Squinty spits out at one point, with particular venom. In another scene, he takes particular pleasure in questioning how on earth Locke’s character could make a living as a prostitute, given her looks.

Some observers might suggest that Exploding Helicopter is reading too much into one film. But one only needs to look at how frequently ill-fortune befell the demure blonde whenever she appeared in an Eastwood picture.

For starters, her character is raped in The Gauntlet, Sudden Impact and The Outlaw Josey Wales. And then there’s the ultimate indignity of co-starring with a libidinous orangutan in not one but two movies. To paraphrase the great Oscar Wilde, once may seem like misfortune; this often just looks like callousness.

Exploding helicopter action

Riding a motorcycle, Eastwood and Locke try to evade a couple of mafia sharp-shooters who are pursuing them in a helicopter.

The pair head cross-country in an effort to shake off the villains. Their path takes them down a hill that has a string of electricity pylons running across it.

Now, it might seem a fairly simple task to avoid these easily observable hazards. But if Exploding Helicopter has learned anything over the course of a long, unsuccessful writing career, it’s to never underestimate the stupidity of a pilot.

Sure enough, the villains – giddy at the prospect of being able to finally bump-off Eastwood and Locke – fly too close to the pylons. The whirlybird becomes entangled in wires, crashes to the ground and explodes.

Artistic merit

The helicopter rather fetchingly becomes snafued in the cables like a rotor-bladed meatball entwined in spaghetti. It’s a nice touch.

The chopper then crashes to the ground whereupon it promptly explodes. (Unlike a pasta-based Italian classic).

Exploding helicopter innovation

This is the earliest example Exploding Helicopter has discovered of a helicopter getting caught up in wires or cabling. Since this film though, it’s become a familiar trope of the genre: see Die Hard With A Vengeance and The Dark Knight for similar efforts.

Interesting fact

The Sud Aviation SA 341G Gazelle destroyed in this film is the same helicopter that appeared in The Cat from Outer Space as well as the TV disaster movie Flood.

Favourite line

“Now, have you got that? Or do I need to write it in braille and shove it up your ass?”

Review by: Jafo

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

It's a wonder that Tom Cruise is still making Mission Impossible films.

Not because of declining box office returns or increasingly critical reviews. No, it’s simply that the Cruiser should surely be dead by now.

Whereas other leading men of a similar age are opting for a more sedentary career route, Hollywood’s favourite hyperactive fifty-something has spent the past year running, fighting, crashing, crawling, stunting and, yes, actually breaking his leg in the name of movie-making.

Indeed, having turned the franchise into a global phenomenon by performing all his own stunts, Tiny Tom is now trapped in a cinematic kamikaze spiral where he has to perform increasingly dangerous feats – hurtling off the world’s tallest building, strapping himself to an actual flying plane – merely to maintain the audience’s interest.

That’s why, four years away from his bus pass, his preferred mode of transport, rather than catching the No. 46 to Safeways, is dangling off the landing rails of a flying chopper while a grinning baddie repeatedly stamps on his hands. You get tired just watching him.

The plot

You’ll never believe this, but stolen nuclear material is about to fall into the hands of devious terrorists. (Copyright: every espionage movie, ever.) Of course, Ethan Hunt faces the usual piston-armed race against time to get it back.

However, this predictable premise is given a welcome twist by the reappearance of creepy Solomon Lane (the villain from Rogue Nation). And then Hunt himself becomes the chief suspect for masterminding the entire plutonium plot. Crikey.

The cast

Like an old pair of slippers, the cast has a reassuring, comfortable familiarity.

As usual, Thomas Mapother IV - as he doesn’t like to be known - heads up the whole affair. Despite careering at speed towards his 60th birthday, he hyperactively bounces through the film in a manner that suggests he’s doing something highly illegal with monkey glands.

Alongside him is Ving Rhames, the only other survivor from the first impossible mission. While Cruise remains oddly preserved, the passage of time has not been so kind to Big Ving, whose broadening visage has now taken on a slightly unreal, waxy quality – almost as if he were wearing one of the film’s famous rubber masks.

There’s also a role for franchise newcomer Rebecca Ferguson – whose turn as a British agent was the undisputed highlight of Rogue Nation. Once again, she oozes cool allure, pounding henchmen into hamburger meat and speeding through Paris in motorcycle leathers. And for all the double-crossing and secret identities, she’s the only one here likely to be mistaken for someone who can  act.

Which is just as well, since she has to pull off one of Hollywood’s toughest thesping gigs: portraying a plausible love interest for that demented-smiley-Scientologist-couch-jumper, Cruise. (She fails, of course, but it’s a feat no-one has convincingly pulled off in over 20 years).

Last, and we definitely mean last, is the joyless Simon Pegg. Introduced as a spoddy computer geek in M:I 3 to provide a few LOLs between the main action set-pieces, the scrawny comic has inexplicably been promoted to Cruise’s right-hand man.

This is unquestionably a bad thing. Where Pegg’s painful punchlines were once safely confined to a few brief scenes, his mirth-free mutterings are now an integral part of each film.

And true to form, Fallout opens with Pegg indulging in some tortured ‘banter’ with Tom and Big Ving, which only ends when heavily armed terrorists turn up. Sadly, they don’t take the opportunity to put a bullet through Pegg’s forehead.

Is this any good?

Exploding Helicopter always likes to have a little a fun at the expense of the film and the actors we’re watching. But here’s the truth – Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a rollicking piece of entertainment.

This single movie contains more outstanding action set-pieces (a three-way fight in a toilet, a foot chase across London, the hijacking of a prison convoy) than most franchises manage across their entire series.

But M:I – Fallout is not just a rollercoaster of impressive stunt-work. It also deftly weaves in a more serious theme: the value of one life versus many.

It all adds up to a very satisfying experience, which delivers on the adrenaline-racing thrills without compromising the audience’s intelligence. In action movie terms, that makes Mission: Impossible – Fallout a rare beast indeed.

Exploding helicopter action

Naturally, given the nature of this film, the villain has come up with an overly complicated plan to detonate his nuclear bombs. And really, the tangled methodology in this one would make a Scooby Doo villain blush.

All you need to know is that the ‘McGuffin’ needed to defuse the weapons is being flown away from the danger zone in a helicopter by the rascally Henry Cavill (seen here sporting the ‘tache that cost £25m to ‘hide’ with CGI during the Justice League re-shoots).

The Cruiser gives chase aboard another chopper to set up the film’s climatic action sequence – a truly fantastic aerial duel between the two aircraft. Finally, after 20 minutes of airborne histrionics and thrills, we find TC and HC trading punches atop the fuselage of a wrecked whirlybird that’s swinging perilously on a wire off a mountain cliff edge.

With time running out before the bombs go off, Cavill finds himself in the unenviable position of hanging from wire on which the damaged helicopter is suspended. But having gained advantage, our favourite Scientology minion gives the wire a good hard yank, which sends Henry and the helicopter tumbling down the mountainside. The fuselage hits bottom and explodes.

Artistic merit

Taken as an entire sequence, this could be one of the greatest additions to the exploding helicopter canon. We get tension, visceral thrills and ultimately the satisfaction of a chopper fireball. There really isn’t any more an audience can ask for.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Watching Henry Cavill plummet to this death alongside the wreckage of a damaged chopper, Exploding Helicopter was reminded of the Cliffhanger climax where Sylvester Stallone engineers a similar demise for John Lithgow.

Favourite line

In a film where so much attention is spent on creating inventive fight scenes and geographically accurate foot-chases, it’s a shame that the same care wasn’t spent on the dialogue.

After a shootout in Paris, the Cruiser attempts to console an injured policewoman.

“Je suis desole,” he says, in a line of French so painfully rendered that it drew audible titters in Exploding Helicopter’s cinema.

Review by: Jafo

Thursday 22 February 2018

Missing In Action 2: The Beginning

Here’s a simple question: when is a sequel not a sequel? When it’s a prequel, obviously.

But what if that film was never meant to be either a sequel or a prequel – what are we supposed to call it then?

Such terminological philosophising may seem like academic navel-gazing. How, you’re doubtless wondering, could you ever make a film without first knowing what it’s meant to be?

Ah, dear reader. You’re clearly not familiar with the weird history of the Missing In Action series.

The plot

The Vietnam War is over, but a group of American soldiers are still held as prisoners of war in a secret jungle camp.

Even though the conflict ended years ago, one dastardly prison commandant (Soon-Tek Oh) is making a point. He won’t release Uncle Sam’s boys until their leader (Chuck Norris) makes a false confession to committing war crimes.

But Chuck is made of stern stuff, his hide as thick as the triple-denim outfits he inexplicably favoured in several of his other movies. The mini-marvel refuses, so he and his men find themselves subjected to a never-ending campaign of psychological and physical torture.

So the grisly stage is set. Will Chuck crack and finally confess under his captor’s cruel crusade? Or can he and his men engineer an audacious escape? Er, yes.

You see, Missing in Action 1 – the film preceding this – was all about an ESCAPED prisoner of war, which does rather give the game away. Literally everyone watching this sequel knows exactly how things will end. Edge of your seat stuff, eh?

The cast

Given this film is notionally a sequel, the part of Captain James Braddock is once again played by Chuck Norris - the heroic and inevitably bearded leader of the American POWs.

Never the most verbose actor, our favourite beaver-in-human-form is on peak monosyllabic form here. Entire scenes take place where he does little more than grunt tersely or glower silently at his captors.

This may sound like harsh criticism, but in fact it’s high praise. Because there is perhaps no uglier cinematic sight than watching everyone’s favourite furry kung-fu pygmy trying to act. As Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry famously observed, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

Still, that’s not to say that the film is without at least one flamboyant turn. Enter Soon-Tek Oh as the vicious prison commandant, Colonel Yin. While the name may not be familiar, the face certainly will be. Mr Oh spent over 30 years playing a variety of Asian stereotypes in a *ahem* Chinese laundry list of TV shows and films. And his performance here could best be described as ‘stock Oriental villain #3’.

As the dastardly Colonel Yin, Soon-Tek is required to delight in many elaborate displays of cruelty, rage uncontrollably at his subordinates, and twizzle his moustache at the end of every scene.

Viewers of a liberal persuasion will find the performance a painful reminder of a time when Asian actors endured whole careers playing a handful of stock, cardboard caricatures.

Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times. These days, you can find a rich variety of three-dimensional Asian characters in all manner of Hollywood blockbusters. And who could find anything culturally inappropriate in top Manga movie Ghost In The Shell (starring Scarlet Johannsson), samurai classic 47 Ronin (hello, Keanu Reeves) or the Chinese fantasia, The Wall, starring, er, Matt Damon.

Sequel, prequel, what the hell should we call it?

Here’s a brief history of the chronological mess that is the Missing in Action movies. Having secured the services of Chuck Norris, legendarily tight-fisted producers Menahem Globus and Yoram Gohan were convinced that their Vietnam epic was going to be a success.

To save themselves the time, trouble, and particularly expense of returning to make an inevitable sequel, the parsimonious pair decided to shoot a follow-up at the same time. The first film would tell the tale of a brave American soldier who spent years in brutal captivity before escaping. The sequel would show our hero returning to ‘Nam to free other POWs.

Shooting commenced on both movies. And all seemed to be going swimmingly, until they ruined everything by actually taking a look at the dailies. Because while they had in fact made a very good movie – a bona fide smash, probably – it was the second one that worked. The first movie, the one meant to launch the whole mini-franchise, was a merde-ball, a dog’s dinner, an absolute stinker.

Realising that audiences would never watch their gem of a sequel if they’d been scarred by a terrible first film, the producers hatched a cunning wheeze: simply release the sequel first.

So, Missing In Action 2 became Missing In Action, while the original was rebadged as Missing In Action 2 with a handy subtitle – The Beginning – to explain the bonkers timeline to bamboozled viewers. Confused? Just wait until you hear about Missing in Action 3. (More of that later).

Why is it such a stinker?

What was it about this film that panicked producers so much? Put simply, Missing In Action 2 is possibly the most schizophrenic film Exploding Helicopter has ever witnessed. Individual scenes veer chaotically from daytime soap opera emoting to stomach-churning violence. (Picture Harold and Madge from Neighbours having a delicate squabble over the barbie, then Madge opening her hubby up stomach-to-throat with a flensing knife. It’s that kind of tonally awkward.)

One minute the POWs are swapping tear-jerking stories about their pregnant gals back home, the next Norris is suddenly biting the head off a rat. It’s very disturbing.

Having said that, given the choice between watching Wee Chuck floss his sizeable gnashers with rodent entrails or attempt some more ‘acting’, most viewers would probably choose the furry innards.

Exploding helicopter action

Generally speaking, Vietnam War films are a mecca for helicopter fans. You can barely get through five minutes of most ‘Nam movies without hearing the steady ‘thum-thum-thum’ of rotor blades as an open-sided chopper swings into shot. And many end up in flames.

So it’s no surprise to see the film open with our diminutive hairy star and crew flying low above the Vietnamese jungle in a chopper. And even less of a surprise when they come under heavy fire.

The whirly bird is fatally damaged and unable to land, so Chuck and his men bail out – jumping into a river they seem to handily be flying over. Without anyone at the controls, the stricken copter crashes into the ground and explodes – becoming yet another casualty of war.

Artistic merit

This is one horrible helicopter explosion. As the aircraft nears the ground, it suddenly disappears behind a very artificial-looking ball of flame.

Clearly embarrassed by the poor quality of his composite shot, the director wisely lingers but a moment on the fiery cloud before cutting away.

Exploding helicopter innovation

You don’t often see pilotless helicopters explode. The only other one that springs to Exploding Helicopter’s mind is in Piranha II: The Spawning.


“An American hero’s story continues,” boasts the film’s poster, ignoring the fact this is a prequel. Then again, “An American hero’s backstory is completed” isn’t terribly catchy.

Interesting fact

After the first two films, you’d think it would be hard for the series’ chronology to become yet more convoluted. But that’s what happened with Braddock: Missing In Action 3 (1988).

In Chuck’s third ‘Nam outing, the long years of captivity are altogether expunged from his character’s history. (In a breath-taking flashback, we even see him airlifted home at the end of the war.) Worse, he’s suddenly given a Vietnamese wife and child who have hitherto never been seen nor mentioned, and whose existence flatly contradicts the entire events of MIA 2.

Not since a very-much-alive Bobby Ewing wandered out of the shower in Dallas (rendering the 31 episodes preceding his very noticeable death redundant), has Exploding Helicopter seen such a cavalier attitude to continuity.

Review by: Jafo

You can read a review of Missing In Action 2: The Beginning by our buddies over at Comeuppance Reviews.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Money Talks

As its title suggests, Rush Hour (1998) hit cinemas like a shot of adrenalin and got audiences feeling very giddy indeed.

In truth, hopes had not initially been high. A variant on the buddy cop formula (copyright: Walter Hill and 48 Hours), the film teamed gobby joke-smith Chris Tucker with martial arts legend Jackie Chan for the usual squabbling-then-bonding shtick.

But audiences loved it. An unexpected box office smash, it spawned two hugely profitable sequels that improbably transformed Tucker into the world’s highest paid actor. (The fact he pocketed $25m for Rush Hour 3 is by some way the funniest thing about that particular film.)

To most people, the helium-voiced comic appeared to spring from nowhere. But he’d actually given his sidekick skills a dry-run in an earlier, now largely forgotten film – Money Talks (1997).

The plot 

An unscrupulous TV reporter (Charlie ‘Winning’ Sheen) engineers the arrest of a small-time conman (Tucker) to create a story for his news channel.

But as the luckless thief is being taken to jail, he’s unwittingly caught up in a prison break when a criminal kingpin is sprung from chokey. The famously unforgiving LA police, mistakenly believing him responsible for the death of several officers, vow to bring in the hapless crook ‘dead or alive’ (with a pointed emphasis on the dead).

Hunted across the city and desperate to prove his innocence, the wronged felon turns to an unlikely source of help: the shady journalist who landed him in this mess in the first place.

The perfidious pair partner up. Can the criminal clear his name? Will the heinous hack get an exciting exclusive? Will this movie avoid shoddily mining every single buddy cop cliché in the book? No.

Falling star 1…

By playing fast-talking crook Franklin Hatchett, Chris Tucker found the perfect foil with which to reprise the motor-mouthed monologues that had made his stand-up act such a success. Although how the jibbering joker ever became a top comic remains a mystery to Exploding Helicopter.

His trademark rapid-fire repartee seems born not so much from an urgent need to share the zinging punchlines percolating in his head, but rather to obscure the fact that nothing he says is terribly funny. He’s the comedy version of a hamster on a wheel – expending huge amounts of energy but going nowhere.

Worse still, the stream of consciousness word-blurt is delivered in a migraine-inducing falsetto. Screechy and speedy but never funny, Tucker’s whole career is a triumph of sass over substance.

Falling star 2…

Talking of sass over substance (abuse), Charlie Sheen’s turn as the unprincipled newsman has to be seen to be not at all believed in. Now, coming across as a complete dick has rarely been a problem for Carlos Estevez, not because he’s a good actor but because he’s a complete dick.

Indeed, the coke-snorting wife-beater’s most profitable period as a thespian came while playing a sanitised version of himself in the hit TV series, Two and a Half Men. Sadly, his newfound popularity convinced the Platoon star – who once ‘accidentally’ shot a fiancĂ©e - that what his viewers really wanted was to see more of the ‘real’ him.

And in fairness, he did deliver. Looking through its fingers, mainstream America watched on as Sheen got himself fired, shacked up with two porn stars (then beat one of them up), and had an unforgettable drug-fuelled meltdown on national TV. Of course, all this happened after ‘Money Talks’. But watching the movie, you can already see that this is exactly the kind of guy such things would happen to.

Buddy movie breakdown

The buddy movie formula is painfully simple: shove two contrasting personalities together, then sit back and watch the sparks fly. The only real rule is that, while the partnered protagonists aren’t meant to like each other, the audience should find one or other of them appealing (or at least be amused at their sparring).

That clearly was an ask too far for ‘Money Talks’ and its hapless director, Brett ‘Fatty’ Ratner – a plodding cinematic journeyman whose mantra should be: ‘Will this do?’ Against the odds, Ratner manages to give us two irritating characters, played by two unlikeable actors, in an adventure you care little about.

Exploding Helicopter lays no claim to be a film scholar, but we’re pretty certain that’s no recipe for enduring success.

Exploding helicopter action 

Still, at least there’s a helicopter explosion. The pivotal scene takes place at the LA Coliseum during the film’s big climax. Our *ahem* heroes are pursued by two rival gangs who each want a cache of stolen diamonds (a sub-plot too tiresome to explain) that Tucker has in his possession.

As a massive gun battle breaks out, Sheen cleverly uses hand-grenades to booby-trap a helicopter belonging to one of the villains. When the police arrive, the baddie tries to make an aerial getaway. But the chopper’s take-off triggers the hidden explosives, creating a fireball that consumes the helicopter.

Artistic merit 

It’s always nice to see a villain’s despairing death throes and Money Talks treats us to a fine example of the form. As flames envelope the whirlybird’s fuselage, the desperado recognises his imminent fate and screams a despairing “Noooo….” before he too is turned to ashes. Quality stuff.

Exploding helicopter innovation 

Exploding Helicopter appreciated the clever and unique way in which the chopper was rigged to explode.

Basically, Sheen pulls the pins from several grenades and jams the now primed devices under the copter’s landing skids. As the chopper takes off, the pressure on the grenades’ levers is released causing them to detonate. Ingenious. 

Interesting fact 

After making Money Talks, Chris Tucker became a born-again Christian. It’s still not known whether God has forgiven him for this risible tosh.

Review by: Jafo