Welcome to Flopcorn, where Reader writers and contributors pay tribute to our very favorite bad movies. In this installment, writer Princess McDowell makes the case for the true meaning of Money Talks.
I know there’s only one like this movie.
There’s no way they could have made two.
It’s all I’m living for. My love it gets forever more.
It’s my first, my last, my everything.
If you didn’t recognize those lines as lyrics to Barry White’s “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything,” then you do yourself a disservice on two fronts: 1. for missing out on a classic, and 2. for not knowing Money Talks, the 1997 film starring Chris Tucker and Charlie Sheen. But really Chris Tucker.
In it, Tucker plays Franklin Hatchett, a small-time con man working out of a car wash who finds himself on the run after the prison convoy he’s on is blown up and two cops are killed. I know, that’s a lot, and it gets more convoluted when Franklin manages to piece together the bad guys’ plan to retrieve millions of dollars in diamonds, despite their horrendous French accents. ‘Cause now he’s got to get the diamonds so he can take care of his pregnant girlfriend (Elise Neal) without getting caught by LAPD, the unspoken villain of every black 90s movie. I mean, what else is there?
There’s a hot take, because if you ask me, Money Talks is the true sequel to Friday, the 1995 stoner-themed Tucker/Ice Cube vehicle. In this alternate universe, we find out what happened to Smokey after he paid back Big Worm. He becomes Franklin, which is totally plausible since we never get his real name in Friday, do we? Now he’s some type of grown but still irresponsible and charming and prone to pratfalls. He even runs from the bad guys the same way he ran down the street after Hector gave him that angel dust.
It’s classic Tucker: he flails his arms to dodge bullets, uses quick wit to convince Guy Cipriani (Paul Sorvino) that he’s the son of Vic Damone and Diahann Carroll—complete with a fake Italian accent—and he does his Michael Jackson Shamone impression, because he can’t resist doing some type of MJ impersonation when he’s on camera. Watching him is the best part of the movie.
I can never tell if Money Talks was supposed to be a buddy film or just a vehicle for Tucker’s physical comedy. Sheen is there playing James Russell, a pompous and entitled news reporter engaged to Heather Locklear, but he fades into the background of most scenes and becomes more of a shield than a sidekick. Either way I’m fine with it; he doesn’t exactly have any redeeming characteristics. He has a few lines, but the funniest bits come when he’s setting up Tucker. In one, Russell tells Hatchett not to comment on his fiancee’s weight, and the first thing Hatchett does when they meet is call her phat, as in P.H.A.T.—Pretty Hot and Tempting. He’s stunned by her phatness, and that is never not funny.
(Sidenote: remember phat, one of our first bungling attempts to reclaim language by coming up with a phonetic acronym that had us calling every fine woman some type of fat/phat back in the day? Ah, we were so young.)
The cast of characters add to the fun, even if Elise Neal’s Paula spends the movie rolling her neck and yelling at Franklin and everyone else she comes into contact with. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t both cringe at the stereotype of the loud black woman and laugh at her and Tucker’s shared scenes. Michael Wright, best known for playing crackheads, is Aaron, a laid-back gangsta and Franklin’s cousin who supplies him with a cache of guns and saves the day by blowing up a media booth with a rocket launcher. Plus there’s a bushel of gags and one-liners and an old white man who looks like Ben Stein that really make this movie. They even manage to throw in a bunch of explosions at the end.
Overall Money Talks is Chris Tucker at his finest; everybody else not so much. But it’s still on my watch list forever. v