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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Money Talks' Not Good or Bad Enough




Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." -- Revelation, 3:14-16.


Admittedly, scripture is not the first thing that comes to mind when you see "Money Talks," the 1998 "adventure comedy" starting Thursday at the American House of Cinema. But a more Laodicean screen experience is hard to imagine.


The movie is not quite bad enough to enjoy as a piece of unintended camp, but neither is it good enough to provide anything other than the most fleeting, flickering moments of tepid entertainment. If you found yourself watching it for some reason -- dragooned there by friends, perhaps, or maybe using it as the backdrop for a date -- it probably wouldn't be too excruciating; like a mild attack of gas, it would pass off in a short time with no real harm done.


But then again, who would choose to have a mild attack of gas?


The film is the brainchild of comedian Chris Tucker, a sort of second-string Eddie Murphy with a dash of Jerry Lewis. If this makes him sound rather tedious, that's because he is. And when you team Tucker's manic contortions and high-pitched squealy voice with the stone-faced -- or just plain stoned -- demeanor of cocaine casualty Charlie Sheen, you have the makings of one really damp squib on your hands.


The movie cheats us, however; it never really becomes as horrible as it has every right to be. The credit for this should probably go to director Brett Rattner, who keeps things moving at a rapid clip and shows a deft touch for setting up well-timed comic scenes. It's just too bad that his lead actors -- and the tired script -- can't fill these nice setups with anything interesting.


There is a surprisingly strong supporting cast, however, including veterans like Paul Sorvino and David Warner, who manage to squeeze a few laughs out of almost nothing. The film also employs aging, blow-dried television vixen Heather Locklear as set dressing for a couple of scenes.


The plot concerns the unlikely alliance of a manic Los Angeles street hustler (Tucker) and a tightly wound television reporter (Sheen).


Through a series of mishaps, they stumble onto a scheme by those well-known global scourges -- Belgian terrorists -- who are trying to smuggle $15 million in stolen diamonds into Los Angeles (or maybe out of; it's not very clear) hidden in an antique car.


The verisimilitude of this scenario is further heightened as we watch the evil Belgians deploy a literal army of black-clad, Uzi-blasting, bomb-exploding foot soldiers in and around the greater Los Angeles area without drawing the slightest bit of attention from local authorities.


By this time, of course, our two heroes have crossed many great divides of race, class, upbringing and zip code to bond in a way that offers, perhaps, a newly stitched patch of hope for the fractious ethnic quilt that is modern America. As they lie beneath the stadium bleachers, taking cover from an evil Belgian who is raining machine-gun fire on them despite having been shot at least 14 times himself, Tucker and Sheen share a private moment of trust meant to transcend the 90 minutes of witless raillery that has gone before.


Touching as all of this is, if you're really in the mood for a bi-racial buddy movie with lots of gunplay and witty quips, go to the video store and rent the original: Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in "48 Hours."