Money Talks (1997) New Line/Action-Comedy RT: 97 minutes Rated R (graphic violence, pervasive strong language) Director: Brett Ratner Screenplay: Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow Music: Lalo Schifrin Cinematography: Russell Carpenter and Robert Primes Release date: August 22, 1997 (US) Cast: Chris Tucker, Charlie Sheen, Heather Locklear, Elise Neal, Paul Sorvino, Veronica Cartwright, David Warner, Gerard Ismael, Frank Bruynbroek, Michael Wright, Paul Gleason, Daniel Roebuck, Larry Hankin, Damian Chapa. Box Office: $41 million (US)/$78.4 million (World)
Some personalities are so big that sometimes it’s best to just stand back and let that person do what they do- e.g. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop I & II and Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Add to that list Chris Tucker in Money Talks. He made his mark playing memorable roles in 1995’s cult comedy Friday and Luc Besson’s sci-fi-actioner The Fifth Element. Prior to that, he did stand-up comedy. It shows in his fast-and-loud-talking style, body language and partiality to the f-word. Depending on your tolerance for high-pitched screaming and screeching, Tucker oozes natural talent from every pore. It was only a matter of time before some filmmaker set him loose in his first starring role. Brett Ratner, who would go on to direct Tucker in the Rush Hour movies, hands him Money Talks on a silver platter. This is Tucker’s movie, no two ways about it. You know it the minute you see him singing along to Barry White’s “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” while driving a convertible he “borrowed” from the car wash where his character “works”.
When I say Franklin Hatchett (Tucker) “works” at a car wash, I mean that’s where he conducts his ticket scalping business. That is until investigative reporter James Russell (Sheen, Hot Shots) shows up and causes him to be arrested. He’s taken to jail where he’s handcuffed to French gangster Raymond Villard (Ismael). En route to prison, the transport bus is attacked by Villard’s men led by Dubray (Bruynbroek). They kill everybody except for Villard and Franklin who escape by helicopter. Fearing for his life, Franklin jumps out of the helicopter, but not before learning that the gangsters have a cache of stolen diamonds stashed away. The police are after Franklin because they believe he was in on the escape plan that claimed the lives of several police officers. He calls Russell, who’s just been fired from his job, to help him clear his name. Realizing that helping Franklin clear his name would get him his job back, he agrees to hide Franklin for the weekend (Sweeps Week begins that Monday). As coincidence would have it, it’s the same weekend he’s marrying his wealthy girlfriend Grace (Locklear, Melrose Place).
Franklin agrees to pose as Russell’s old college friend, but ups the ante by introducing himself to the bride’s parents as Vic Damone Jr., the son of the famous Italian singer. Her father, Tony (Sorvino, Goodfellas), takes an immediate liking to the guy. As plans for the wedding proceed, Russell tries to help Franklin clear his name, putting his own life in danger from cops and gangsters. Money Talks is a black-and-white buddy action-comedy in the vein of 48 Hrs, Lethal Weapon and Nothing to Lose. The plot isn’t anything special; we’ve seen different variations of it in countless other action-comedies. The violence is a bit more graphic in Money Talks, but it doesn’t take away from the fun of watching Tucker do his thing. Take the scene where he meets Tony for the first time. He gets the idea for the Vic Damone ruse from a commercial he saw earlier that day for a CD of the singer’s greatest hits (remember those ads?). He runs with the story, recalling childhood friends like Junior Walker Jr. and Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. I know Tucker didn’t write these lines, the credit goes to Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, but he makes them his own. Money Talks gets by on Tucker’s style and energy. Ratner, making his directorial debut, does only a serviceable job. As the straight man, Sheen is okay. He basically stands there and watches Tucker devour the scenery. David Warner (TRON) shows up in a couple of scenes as Russell’s boss at the TV station. He gets off some good lines as does Sorvino. Paul Gleason, as a cop on Franklin’s trail, plays the same kind of mean bastard he played in The Breakfast Club and Die Hard. The score by Lalo Schifrin is quite good. The action scenes are well-orchestrated. Most importantly, Money Talks is funny. Is it a great movie? No, not by any means. Is it entertaining? Yes actually, it is. It has its flaws, but it makes for decent viewing on a dull weeknight.