Synopsis: In this hilarious Hot Shots! sequel, former renegade pilot Topper Harley (Charie Sheen) is once again recruited for a secret mission. This time the country’s incompetent president (Lloyd Bridges) sends him to the Middle East to rescue U.S. hostages and the countless men who have already been sent in to rescue them. Pining for his former lover (Valeria Golino) in a Buddhist temple, Topper manages to pull himself together and sets out on his laugh-filled, action-packed task.
eyelights: Lloyd Bridges. Rowan Atkinson. the solid script. Jim Abraham’s assured direction.
eyesores: the seemingly interminable last act.
Saddam Hussein: “They’ve dicked with the wrong dictator!”
‘Hot Shots! Part Deux’ (or “Part Dooh”, as the ads’ voice over, would say) is a follow-up to the story of Topper Harley, once a pilot and now a retired, Rambo-like bushwhacker, now reclused in a Buddhist village. It follows a similar plot as the one from ‘Rambo: First Blood Part 2’, which is that our hero is sent out to rescue POWs. Coincidentally enough, Richard Crenna plays the Colonel in both pieces.
‘Part Deux’ is not a ‘Rambo’ spoof, per se, but it’s the main reference, with Sheen donning Stallone’s look (complete with long curly hair and a newly buffed-up physique) and countless references to the series, such as the stick fight from ‘Rambo III’, Rambo’s weapon of choice, a bow, and the multiple uses for Rambo’s combat knife – which, here, becomes increasingly absurd.
While Rambo figures prominently, the film isn’t entirely Rambo-centric: there are plenty of other references, such as ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’, ‘Apocalypse Now’ (featuring a genius cameo by Martin Sheen), ‘Basic Instinct‘, ‘Casablanca’, ‘The Hunt for Red October’, ‘Lady and the Tramp’, ‘Missing in Action’, ‘Platoon’, ‘Sea Hunt’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’, ‘The Wizard of OZ’, and a bevy of others.
As with ‘Hot Shots!‘, I was astounded by the extent to which I enjoyed this film; I had seen it many times over the years, but my only recollection was that it was a decent enough picture. And yet, again, I ended up laughing quite a lot from start to finish, relishing all the insane dialogue, one-liners, gags and references that co-writers Jim Abrahams and Pat Proft peppered the film with.
Most of all, I was impressed with its cast, which was far superior to the first picture’s:
Topper Harley: “I’m not saying I don’t trust you, and I’m not saying I do. But I don’t.”
– Charlie Sheen returns as Topper Harley, now a muscle-bound freak. Now, I understand that actors want to immerse themselves in their roles, but Sheen simply looks weird all beefed up like that. At least his performance was superior to the last one. He wasn’t bad then, but he was rock solid in this one; it’s as though he took this part far more seriously this time around. It might even be a high point for him.
President Thomas ‘Tug’ Benson: “It seems like only yesterday I was strafing so many of your homes. Here I am today, begging you not to make such good cars.”
– Lloyd Bridges also returns, but this time as President Benson (he was an Admiral in the first one), an utterly confused man who wouldn’t be too far out of place in the Reagan administration. Focused on getting rid of Saddam Hussein, as well as scoring political points, Benson relies heavily on his advisors to guide him – until he decides that the only way the rescue mission is going to be successful is to do it his way. Bridges was so good in the last one, that Abrahams rightly gave him a more prominent place in this picture. Because the overall cast is better, he doesn’t stand out as much, but he’s equally good here, if not better.
Topper Harley: “I’m putty in your hands.”
Michelle Huddleson: “In my hands, nothing turns to putty.”
– Brenda Bakke plays the love interest, a government operative who has been put in charge of the mission. Her first move: to bring Topper Harley out of retirement. Bakke was like Scarlett Johansen but without the throaty voice, and a little less bootylicious. But she sexed it up relatively well, and delivered her lines properly. She was a massive improvement over the last female lead, Valeria Golino.
President Thomas ‘Tug’ Benson: “Gotcha! Listening at the door, huh? Well, Walters, looks like we’ve got our saboteur.”
Col. Denton Walters: “That’s your wife, sir.”
– Richard Crenna is the Colonel in charge of the rescue mission, who in turn gets captured. Crenna mostly plays him straight and does a good job of it. It’s not an Award-winning turn, but it’s excellent for a comedy.
Harbinger: “Thank you, Topper. I can kill again! You’ve given me a reason to live.”
– Miguel Ferrer has long been a favourite of mine, even though he tends to play baddies. Is it his scowl? His terse, grumpy demeanour? I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about him that I like. Here he sends up his image a little bit, which I rather enjoyed.
Ramada Rodham Hayman: “I had to come. It was a sequel.”
– Valeria Golino shows up in flashback sequences in the first part of the picture. She was less glassy-eyed than in the last one, which made her far more enjoyable. Thankfully, because she has a bit more screen time in the last 30 minutes or so.
Dexter: “You don’t understand. I can’t walk… they’ve tied my shoelaces together.”
– Rowan Atkinson has a cameo towards the end of the film, and is hilarious. It’s the material, mostly, but Atkinson does it superbly, playing down the humour and toning down his slapstick nature, leaving the others to do all the pratfalling – thereby becoming a stand-out. He had just the right amount of screen time to make us want more of him, but not so much that we’ve had enough. Brilliant.
To top it all off, I found that the script was hilarious, and well-crafted, the production was excellent, unlike many comedies (even some of Abrahams’ past work), and Jim Abrahams’ direction was superb. I was impressed with the amount of gags the film was littered with, and how Abrahams managed to highlight each one correctly, whether they be foreground or background. This is undoubtedly some of Abrahams’ best work.
All this to say that ‘Hot Shots! Part Deux’ is much better than I remembered. My only beef is that the last 15 minutes somehow drags a bit, even though it’s filled with gags. But I laughed a lot, much more than I had anticipated, and am impressed with the quality of a film that could easily be written off as “one of those”. This one may be more akin to Rambo, but it didn’t prevent the filmmakers from bringing out their Top Guns.
“Topper Harley: You’re joking.”
Ramada Rodham Hayman: “I’m not.”
Topper Harley: “You’ve got to be.”
Ramada Rodham Hayman: “If I was joking, I would say: “A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Why the long face?'”
Date of viewing: July 9, 2013