Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Shots

There was a time in my life when this movie would have been the bee's knees for me. I would have been 14 at the time and I wouldn't have known that two greats in the industry were making this piece of crap. Ivan Reitman produced Big Shots and Joe Eszterhas wrote it. Most of you probably know Reitman, he's a big name. Eszterhas maybe not so much, but if you're into the kind of movies I watch then you'd better know him. His writing credits are near legendary; Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Sliver and THIS? C'mon Joe, seriously?

Anyway, Big Shots tells the story of 12 year old Obie played by Ricky Busker who did literally nothing else in film after this. It starts off nice enough with Obie having that awkward father/son talk about sex and people's parts and what they do. Obie sums it up perfectly when he asks “Why do we always have to talk about this gross stuff?”. Well Obie won't have to worry about that for much longer because you see, daddy dies pretty quick. The Obester takes it so bad that he hops on his bike and rides it to the inner city of Chicago. He realizes he done messed up once he can only see those mythical creatures he's only heard about in his monochrome suburban school (for rich kids), black people. In a touch of the subtlety Eszterhas is known for Obie is robbed pretty much the second his bike stops.

"The name's Obediah, it's in the bible" - Obie
Then we get to meet Eddie Winslow, er, uh I mean Scam. Yup, they named the little black kid “Scam” played by Darius Mcrary in his debut role. Scam is a really bad street hustler who somehow manages to scrape by. He's essentially a walking stereotype, but that's just more of Eszterhas' subtlety. Big Shots is essentially three films in one.
Imagine this, but shabbier
The first bit of the film deals with family turmoil and the death of Obie's dad. The second film is a comedy about street smart kids trying to get back some stolen goods (specifically Obie's stolen watch). Lastly it's a film about friendship and doing whatever you can to help a friend. This last bit is essentially the entire second half of the film. Obie and Scam steal a car from some bad guys (and like the cover of the box says “they stole a car with a body in the trunk”). The bad guys find out and a transcontinental car chase ensues. The boys are surprisingly good drivers for 12 and one of the inexplicable questions that never gets answered is why no one ever seems to question WHY these two obviously underage boys are DRIVING!

The best part is that the kids seem to have very little understanding of the danger they're in, probably the least realistic aspect of a film that's already borderline fantasy. It's not until the bad guys are ramming their bumper that they realize they MIGHT be in some kind of trouble and the only thing they can spout out is “those are the guys that want their car back”. A car, let me remind you, that has had a dead body in the trunk for at least a week not counting the drive from Chi town to Louisiana where Scam's (ne Jeremy's) father lives.

Note to future 12 year olds, if you're gonna steal a car...steal this one because you won't get in trouble.
The more I think about this movie the more it hurts my brain. It's like the entire movie is one giant loose end after another and nothing ever gets explained. Scam's dad has been gone for years and hasn't even tried to keep in touch and yet is thoroughly excited to see him when he gets there and again doesn't ask them why they're driving. The cops do nothing despite the smokey and the bandit style car chases that leave dozens of cars wrecked and one entire used car lot engulfed in flames. Obie's mom somehow makes it the exact spot Obie is heading to despite no one telling her. She had the address the boys were given by the uncle who's in the IRS, but the boys were told where the father was by a bar maid in Louisiana. The bad guys get caught, but it's never explained what happened to them. Why didn't scam's father cry when scam told him that the mother died? I'm assuming it would have been off screen, but he's all smiles and lack of child neglect from the moment Scam gets there. Why did Obie feel the need to tell his sister she had a nice ass and why did she like that he said that? Do the boys ever get in trouble for stealing a motherfucking cop car and kicking a cop in the nuts after they rob a pawn shop? And that's just about half of the lingering questions I had as the film progressed. When I say nothing is explained, I mean that NOTHING is explained. It's baffling.

The best part about Big Shots is the supporting cast whether it be the small time thief and hustler who becomes the boys “surrogate father” Johnnie Red played by the amazing Paul Winfield. To the Sleazy nogoodnic pawn shop owner played by the usually much more cheerful Robert Prosky. The supporting cast is just amazing and it's littered with faces you'll recognize. Most likely because at the time Ivan Reitman was a big deal to work with. Certainly not because this is any kind of good movie.

I'm a Star Fleet PIMP!
If you like open ended story lines that require you to figure out what happened then you'll most likely enjoy Big Shots. Personally, I prefer to save my brain power for good movies and schlock like this should be spelled out. Big Shots is a discombobulated mess that should probably be avoided unless you happen to be a Joe Eszterhas completionist even then I'd say “pretend he never wrote this”. The sad thing is that Big Shots had a couple of really great moments that I can't deny, like the two boys getting all worked up because the country bumpkin bartender in the south told them flat out “niggers don't drink here” and they flip out and tell him that someone's gonna come in one day and “smash his face in and piss on it”. Those moments are so few and far between that it's hard to stand the bits of film between those parts.

P.S. the boys never once looked like this in the film!

Drink up...I've got movies to watch

2 out of 5

1 comment:

  1. I loved the fantasy and the boys are adorable. Big Shots is one of my all time favorites,I still cry at the end. My dad learned to drive when he was 9, my son was driving a stick shift (without my knowledge or permission) when he was 11, using a neighbor's car who was handicapped and desperate for companionship. So driving well at 12 is realistic in urban settings.