Money Talks (1997) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: R for graphic violence and pervasive strong language, including sexual references
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Chris Tucker, Charlie Sheen, Heather Locklear, Paul Sorvino, Veronica Cartwright, Gerard Ismael, Paul Gleason, Daniel Roebuck, Elise Neal, David Warner, Michael Wright, Frank Bruynbroek, Faizon Love (cameo), Doug Llewelyn (cameo)
Director: Brett Ratner
Screenplay: Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow
Review published April 29, 2007
The title of the film reminds me of the saying, "Money talks, bullshit walks", which could have been an alternate title, if it would have been marketable with the language issues. Good thing I'm not in marketing, as my preferred title for the film is, "Money Talks = Bullshit".
Chris Tucker (The Fifth Element, Jackie Brown) stars as Franklin Hatchett, a street hustler who peddles his wares (scalped tickets, stolen electronics, etc.) while working his cover job at a local Los Angeles car wash. Charlie Sheen (Major League II, The Chase) plays hotshot TV news reporter James Russell, who is on the verge of exposing the operation in his latest expose, except that Franklin gets busted before Russell can get his exclusive. The lack of results gets Russell fired. While being moved in a prison bus, Franklin escapes when the bad-ass he is cuffed to, a Euro-trash diamond smuggler named Raymond Villard (Ismael, The Last Romantic Lover), is sprung by his cronies. They mean to kill him, but Franklin escapes, just after overhearing the location of the smuggled diamonds.
Meanwhile, the local news has Franklin's face up as an escaped fugitive who was likely responsible for the escape which saw the deaths of several inmates and some police officers, becoming the #1 most wanted criminal in the city. Wanting to clear up his "good" name, Franklin consents to assistance by scoop-hungry Russell, who uses his exclusive access to the now-notorious man on the lam to get his job back -- right before Sweeps Week. With everyone out to get Franklin, and nowhere to hide, the hostile partnership must find the diamonds and expose the true bad guys before it's too late.
I'm going to venture that your enjoyment of Money Talks as a piece of entertainment will come down primarily on your enjoyment of the schtick of its main star, Chris Tucker, and his loud, brash, and foul-mouthed delivery that never relents throughout. Although I can't say that I personally find it hysterical, he at least brings some energy and zest to the completely formulaic film they've built around him, full of generic bad guys, typical crooked cops, and the usual arrangement of car chases, smash-ups, and shootouts galore.
Money Talks marked the debut of director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2), a former music video director that, if nothing else, recognizes when he's got something that works (Tucker) and lets him have free reign to try to squeeze out laughs that otherwise wouldn't be there. Unfortunately, Ratner is also one of those directors that seems to enjoy the tightly-edited, but very prolonged action sequences much more so than he does the build-up and emphasis on basic character motivation. Dialogue between characters is skimpy and not very plausible, and recurring gags, such as Franklin's assertion that he is Vic Demone's son to get in the good graces of James's Italian-American father-in-law-to-be (Sorvino, Romeo + Juliet), are ham-handed to start with and too redundant to find funny after initial inception.
As with most buddy action thrillers, the comedic aspects are more appealing than the action, and whenever Tucker is front and center without a gun in his hand, the film does push forward a certain entertainment. Unfortunately, the last quarter of the film offers few opportunities for Tucker to riff, and as a result, the finale at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is exceedingly monotonous, even with all of the explosive firepower on display.
Basically, Money Talks is little more than a reinterpretation of 48 Hrs. except that Chris Tucker is not as talented as Eddie Murphy, Charlie Sheen not as interesting or complex as Nick Nolte, and Brett Ratner not as skilled at balancing action and humor as Walter Hill. If you haven't seen 48 Hrs., watch that instead. If you have, then you've already seen everything Money Talks has to offer -- why would you want to watch the same film done poorly?
©2007 Vince Leo