Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hard Ticket to Hawaii (Andy Sidaris, 1987)

Is there such a thing as bare nipple fatigue? How about rocket launcher sluggishness? If these phony-sounding afflictions are in fact real, I didn't succumb either as I watched the totally awesome Hard Ticket to Hawaii, a film dares to ask the question: Do these pink bikini bottoms make my ass look fantastic? Sporting a mission statement so straightforward, that you would have to be suffering from the world's worst subdural hematoma to not be able to pick up on it, writer-director Andy Sidaris (Malibu Express) seems to like two things: scantily clad women and pulse-pounding action. Did I say, "like"? It's more like he worships them. Drenched in magazine-quality bikini babes and featuring action sequences that involve blow up dolls, female body builders in mini-dresses shooting uzis from helicopters, and weaponized frisbees, there's a steadfast purity to Andy's version of what a spy thriller should look like. And not only that, he's profoundly committed to whatever is transpiring onscreen at any given moment. Take the snake subplot, for instance. He could have easily forgotten about it halfway through the picture. But, no, his dedication to his craft is so evident, that when the snake does eventually reappear after a long absence, you will no doubt think to yourself, much like I did: "Oh yeah, the snake's still out there." Besides, it would have been foolish not continue with the whole contaminated snake subplot. After all, a lot work obviously went into the creation of the snake puppet (Frederick Luff, "conceptioneering creature design"), and it ends up paying off quite handsomely when all is said and done, as it comes bursting out of a Molokai toilet, enabling the line, "Just when you thought it was safe to pee," to be uttered by our "hero" with a smarmy grace.
Turning our attention to less scaly matters, when you get right down to it, the film all about winsome women wielding uzis in a tropical paradise, nothing more, nothing less. Sure, not every babe, hottie, musclebound henchwomen, or sexually attractive hanger-on wields an uzi in Hard Ticket to Hawaii; in fact, I only recall seeing two who actually fire one in anger during the film's spry running-time. But, as my wise old Aunt Judy would say, "Two uzis are better than no uzis." Why every movie doesn't feature sexy ladies firing uzis has always baffled me. I mean, people love sexy ladies (well, at least they do in my frightfully specific universe), and I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't like uzis.
Choosing to build up the scenes where uzis are employed, Andy Sedaris gives us a prologue involving two Molokai cops who are murdered after they accidentally stumble upon an illegal drug lab run by Seth Romero (Rodrigo Obregón), a brief encounter between Rowdy Abilene (Ronn Moss) and Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) aboard the Malibu Express (yeah, that's right, Cody Abilene's boat from the film Malibu Express - they're obviously related), and a surprisingly clever opening credits sequence (the names of the cast and crew are stenciled on shipping crates).
Basking the in the sun as she waits for her partner to finish her morning swim, we meet Donna again. Except this time, she's not kissing a man who looks like the guy who plays Ridge on The Bold and The Beautiful. A secret agent who moonlights as an employee of Molokai Cargo, Donna and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) deliver people and goods to various points on the island, a lush, dewy place that will make your eyes melt. Transporting a couple on their honeymoon and a contaminated snake (they don't know it's contaminated - the label fell off in the cargo hangar) in their Cessna, the two blondes, both wearing khaki shorts and cowboy white boots, fly through the air as synths, rock guitars, drums provide the soundtrack for what is basically scenery porn.
After dropping off the honeymooners on an isolated beach, Donna and Taryn are confronted by a remote control helicopter as their walking back to their plane. The toy chopper lands in front of them and its doors open. As they're removing the item's that are inside it, two goons in Hawaiian shirts (which I guess in Hawaii are just called "shirts") start shooting at them. I'll admit, firing at the ladies was a tad harsh, but try to see it from their perspective. You've been instructed by your ruthless boss to pick up a package that will be delivered by via remote control helicopter, and when you go to collect it, two exceedingly blonde women in khaki shorts are messing with it. I don't know, call me crazy, but I thought Donna and Taryn were the ones in the wrong. I mean, they're not cops. What gives them the right to tamper with toy helicopters that don't belong to them? 
Narrowly escaping death (I've decided to let the whole toy helicopter controversy go), Donna and Taryn (who pockets one of the items from helicopter - see, she's a thief, too! let it go, man) head back to home base. In other words, unload and hit the jacuzzi.
Meanwhile, over at Edy's, a local eatery, we're introduced to Edy (Cynthia Brimhall), the chick who, you guessed it, runs Edy's, Ashely (David DeShay), the maître d', some random woman named Charlotte (Shawne Zarubica), I'm still trying figure out what the purpose of her character was (just kidding, no I'm not), and, of course, Seth Romero, who tells his henchmen after he learns of their incompetence that, "If brains were bird shit, you would have a clean cage."  
Judging by the bemused expression on his face, Seth (what kind name, by the way, is that for a drug lord?) really wanted what was inside that toy helicopter. And I can't say that I blame him, as Donna and Taryn soon discover what riches the chopper was carrying while enjoying a topless soak in their government subsidized jacuzzi. Truth be told, I was too busy keeping tabs on their respective bikini bottoms: Donna's lower half was barely sheathed in a pair of purple panties, while Taryn's ass crack rocked a red thong. But I did manage to notice that Taryn was in fact holding a diamond between her fingers.
While practicing their kung-fu on the deck of the Malibu Express (complete with un-PC "ching-chong" speak), they get word that's there's "trouble in paradise."If they think there's trouble now, wait until a couple of Seth's henchpeople come looking for the diamonds. My favourite of Seth's henchpeople has to be the totally buff Rosie (Lory Green), who throws Taryn around like a rag doll. Considering the diamonds aren't theirs in the first place, Donna (turquoise shorts) and Taryn (pink shorts) put up a pretty good fight; the former even manages to shoot Seth in the face. But don't worry, it just grazed him. What you should be worrying about is the fact that the contaminated snake broke free during the kerfuffle.
Deciding that they need to unwind and celebrate the fact that they "just shot Seth Romero in the face," Donna and Taryn head down to Edy's for some white wine. Hanging out at another table, we're introduced to Taryn's fella, J.J. Jackson (Wolf Larson), a vitamin-obsessed sports caster. (Huh, I had no idea the word "antioxidants" existed in 1987.) Oh, and make sure keep an eye on Michelle (Michael A. Andrews), the bartender at Edy's, there's something different about her. All right, who am I kidding? It's obvious that Michelle is a man in drag. 
This may sound a tad harsh, but I thought Michael A. Andrews was way more convincing as a woman than Dona Speir, and she was born a woman. I don't know, there was something about her that caused her come across as mannish (even her big hair didn't sit right with me). The fact that she refers to her own mannishness at one point made me feel a little better. But still, I found her aura to be totally unbecoming. What can I say? I'm not a big fan of white pumps when paired with pastel-coloured shorts. Add the fact she spells her first name with only one 'n' was irritating for some reason.
Someone who was not in danger of coming across as unbecoming was the gorgeous Hope Marie Carlton, a woman who clearly has a plethora of complicated thoughts rattling around inside her head at any given moment. It's true, putting a bunch of Playboy models in a movie has its pluses and minuses. But Hope proves that being attractive (even while wearing a hair raising scrunchie) and having an ebullient personality aren't mutually exclusive. You really get a sense of this while watching the scenes where she drinks white wine in a white thong and the one where she speaks Spanish to a couple of sumo wrestlers. In the former, she's just plain sexy. But in the latter, she's a complete goofball, yet she manages to retain her femininity.
Now that I've established my position on the whole contentious Dona Speir vs. Hope Marie Carlton issue (You down with H.M.C? Yeah you know me), let me try to get my head around the infamous rocket launcher blow up doll skate board sequence. An assassin tries take out Rowdy and Jade with a shotgun as they're on their way to meet up with Donna and Taryn. Sounds simple enough. But the fact that the assassin is riding a skate board, carrying a blow up doll, and, according to Rowdy, has been "smoking some heavy doobies" is causing my brain to throb ever so slightly. It didn't help matters that Rowdy decides to thwart skate boarder's assassination attempt by blasting him and his inflated friend with a rocket launcher. And if you thought both were blown to bits with one rocket, think again (think a third time, if necessary). Both the assassin and the doll are destroyed separately. Are you saying what I think you're saying? Yeah, he kills the assassin with a rocket, then fires another rocket at the blow up doll. As you might expect, the head containing my brain has yet to recover. 
Watching Shades (John Dunne), an uzi wielding henchman, play frisbee with Colleen (Colleen Nakasone), the owner of a great ass (Rowdy's words, not mine) on a beach near Seth Romero's hide out with their high-tech surveillance equipment, Donna and Taryn are in the recon phase of their elaborate plan to take down the slimy drug lord; oh, and rescue Edy (didn't you hear? she was kidnapped). How elaborate is this plan exactly? Well, I don't want to give to too much away, but let's just say, noise grenades, a motorized glider thingy, a frisbee affixed with razor blades (Shades in for a nasty surprise), spiky claw gloves, and, of course, a rocket launcher (fired indoors this time around) are all employed at one point during the operation.
Oh, and we finally get to see women fire uzis, as both H.M.C. and Lory Green use them during the film's final showdown. Actually, Hard Ticket to Hawaii has about three final showdowns: 1) The Siege on Seth Romero's compound 2) The Return of the Contaminated Snake Returns. 3. High Rise Comeuppance. The best part of final showdown #3 was H.M.C.'s outfit (I loved the way she looked in that white dress shirt - very chic).

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  1. I watched that rocket launcher sequence clip you posted. Now my brain hurts, too.

    It's actually not that he shoots the guy (who explodes in a mass of gasoline fueled flames and... foam rubber?) and then the blow-up doll. Its that:
    1) Skateboarding dooby smoking assassin shoots our heroes' jeep first in the windshield, and then in the rear left wheel.
    2) The windshield doesn't shatter, or even have a large crack. But the driver gets hit.
    3) The driver's wound is in his fucking chest. There is a small blood stain. In Sidaris's plane of existence, a shotgun shell through a windshield to the chest does not cause a massive spread of damage, a sucking chest wound, or anything more than "I've been better."
    4) Said shotgun must be an automatic military issue weapon, as it requires no cocking, and rapidly fires two shots in quick succession with minimum recoil.
    5) Dooby smoker gets hit with a fucking jeep. This causes him to go about 30 feet or more straight up in the air.

    And yes, I watched the clip twice for those details.

    Usually I'm not big on continuity or proper physics in certain films (I love Arnold action movies and Jean Rollin films, after all). But this was too stupid.

    So stupid I had to write all this as a form of mental therapy.


  2. Dang. Thanks for taking the time to point out all the stupid things that take place during this particular sequence. I had previously thought the fact he blew up the blow up doll with a rocket launcher was the only stupid thing about it. Nevertheless, my brain hurts even more now. ;)

    Oh, and they should totally recreate this scene on Mythbusters.

  3. I must have been super over-tired when I posted that. Reading back through, I feel embarrassed.

    Mythbusters used to be one of my favorite shows. But lately, they mostly just try to recreate film special effects. People who are experts in special effects trying to prove that they are fake is sort of lame. The editing now tends to skip them building crazy stuff, which was always the most fun.

    Besides Kari Byron. I had a crush on her something fierce for quite a while.

  4. Screw Mythbusters, the rocket launcher-skateboard scene was just featured on Conan.

  5. I am in love with Hope Marie Carlton in this movie. She is just about my dream woman with her cherubic persona and that gorgeous face. After watching this film I added her on facebook and couldn't believe what I saw.
    She added me and she looks nothing like she does here. Granted aging happens to us all but I am sure she's gone under the knife for she looks NOTHING like she would if Taryn aged 25 odd years. I even asked her to confirm. Here's the conversation:

    Me: Hey Hope, I just wanted to clarify if you really are Taryn from Last ticket to Hawaii.You look nothing like her
    April 25th, 11:18am
    Hope Marie: Yes that was me. Lots of baby fat then. Thank goodness people grow up lol!

    And why do I love this movie apart from her? Easy...gorgeous hawaii location, that afternoon look(Don't all late 80s-mid 90s movies have that sunny, afternoon look)and a Jacuzzi. Like a fairy land, a far cry from the Mon-Fri grind we have to get subjected to in this Toronto weather.

    Also: This was the first English movie I ever watched. In fact this is the first pair of breasts I have seen. Must have been 6 years old. Old man hid the video cassette somewhere but I remember the jacuzzi scene. For years later...I swear I am not lying....I scrounged the internet trying to find that movie with topless women, diamonds and a python.