Directed by Brett Ratner. Starring Chris Tucker, Charlie Sheen, Heather Locklear, Paul Sorvino. (1997, R, 95 min.)
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Aug. 22, 1997
Until Eddie Murphy pulled his career out of its long free fall with The Nutty Professor, Money Talks is the sort of fiery, catastrophic auguring-in he was headed for. Though patterned after Murphy's monster early hits, 48HRS. and Beverly Hills Cop, this dull, oppressively stupid action comedy has almost none of those movies' cocksure, macho wit and energy. Worse, it lacks even a utility-grade substitute for Murphy himself. Tucker, a pop-eyed nonentity who earned this shot at immortality with supporting roles in Dead Presidents and The Fifth Element, simply doesn't have the talent to anchor a film. Playing lead character Franklin Hatchett -- a motor-mouthed street hustler who accidentally gets crossways with murderous jewel smugglers -- as a garbled fax image of Murphy's Reggie Hammond and Axel Foley roles, he yammers, squeals, and mugs through an excruciating procession of loud, witless scenes. The resulting product is more likely to appeal to fans of Jimmie “J.J.” Walker than Eddie Murphy. But the blame for Money Talks' wretchedness falls less on Tucker's shoulders than on the genius who decided he was worthy of a full-fledged star vehicle, then got the ill-begotten project bankrolled and persuaded a major studio to release it. The mass delusion extended to actors such as Sheen, Locklear, and Sorvino, who may not be superstars, but who one might have imagined to be financially secure enough to avoid the career-damaging effects of this cinematic pipe bomb. Sheen, who plays a prima donna TV investigative reporter trying to help Hatchett bust the smugglers and escape a wrongful murder rap, seems most aware of what he's gotten himself into. His trapped rat expression and rigid performance speak volumes about the special horror of contractual obligation to a doomed project. Director Ratner, who has only two other obscure features to his credit, dutifully consults the Richard Donner stylebook for his action stuff, including a D-Day-scaled final shootout at the L.A. Coliseum, but his handling of these obligatory scenes exhibits all the conviction and natural flair of an industrial robot performing “Cold Sweat.” I believe it's safe to say that all involved in the making of Money Talks are now trying their best to pretend it never happened. In the spirit of compassion and fellow feeling, we should honor their wishes.