Movie Review: Money Talks (1997)
“This ain’t no buddy movie.”
Money Talks (1997)
Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Chris Tucker, Heather Locklear
Synopsis: A small-time hustler teams up with a TV news reporter to bring down a diamond smuggler.
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Chris Tucker’s movie career was on an upward trajectory when he made Money Talks for Brett Ratner, the man who would, the following year, direct him in the first of the Rush Hour movies. There’s no getting away from the fact that Tucker played the same character in every movie in which he appeared, whether it was Tarantino’s hip crime flick Jackie Brown or Luc Besson’s flamboyant SF opera, The Fifth Element; he was the ‘90s helium-voiced answer to Eddie Murphy, although more abrasive and foul-mouthed, and with a uniquely aggressive exuberance that was impossible to ignore. Ironically, the public persona of Charlie Sheen (Young Guns, Due Date), his Money Talks co-star, was more compatible with Tucker’s street hustler, Franklin Hatchett, than James Russell, the dedicated and driven TV reporter he plays here. Sheen’s film career was going nowhere by 1997, the unavoidable consequence of a decade or more of drug-fuelled exploits, and the box-office success of Money Talks did little to halt its decline.
Contrived plot devices conspire to throw this mismatched couple together after Russell files a report on small-time hustler Hatchett’s arrest for ticket touting, a news article so lacking in any kind of public interest that his boss (David Warner) promptly fires him. En-route to prison, Hatchett finds himself at the centre of an audacious escape bid, not because anyone particularly cares whether or not he goes to prison, but because he’s handcuffed to French diamond smuggler Raymond Villard (Gerard Ismael), whose associates are extremely keen to keep him on the outside so that they can retrieve the priceless diamonds that are hidden in a vintage Jaguar which is soon to be auctioned.
The scale of the escape requires a helicopter to hide beneath a bridge and the indiscriminate explosion of the bus transporting Hatchett and his fellow cons to prison, and is indicative of the film’s overblown style. Everything about Money Talks is exaggerated, as if caught up in Tucker’s turbulent slipstream. Barely escaping with his life after fleeing from Villard, Hatchett strikes a deal with Russell: he’ll help the reporter foil Villard’s plot to retrieve the diamonds in return for refuge from the police until he clears his name of involvement in the smuggling operation.
Clearly inspired by the likes of Lethal Weapon, Money Talks makes up in sheer bravado for what it lacks in originality, and most of its memorable moments arise from the interplay between Tucker and Sheen rather than its action set-pieces. Tucker delivers his lines in that familiar full-on, nasal pitch as his character bluffs and blusters his way through a variety of situations, while Sheen follows in his wake like a mildly frustrated babysitter searching for the pacifier that will quieten his charge. It’s the kind of role from which Tucker would try to distance himself following the success of the Rush Hour movies, and it’s impossible to shake off the suspicion that he did us all a favour by doing so. He’s fun in small doses, but ultimately exhausting – although it’s fair to say that Money Talks would be completely forgettable were it not for his presence.
(Reviewed 15th September 2016)
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