Hard Ticket to Hawaii
Directed by Andy Sidaris
Friday, August 10, at 92Y Tribeca
"Let's unload and hit the jacuzzi. I do my best thinking there." It never hurts to watch a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be. Andy Sidaris believed in make-believe, and he believed he had a preternatural knack for what made movies movies—not TV, not videos, not art, not porn, but entertainment. Thusly, his masterpiece Hard Ticket To Hawaii is chock full of tangerine sunsets, spectacularly detailed model airplanes, bouncing buoy-breasts, razor-sharp synthesizer stings, a drag queen hitman, sumo wrestlers, deliberately clunky zingers, and tons of action. Its vocabulary isn’t the sleek action instituted by directors like John McTiernan or Renny Harlin, but a kind of rough-edged action of pure consequences—one guy fires a bazooka, and we immediately see the other guy exploding. Get there late, and leave early; there’s no such thing as a too-tight bathing suit. I lied earlier: Hard Ticket is actually pretty painful until you get used to it. Only once the picture’s toxins have seeped into your veins will you realize how far you’ve been flung from a regular studio shoot-em-up.
The beautiful blonde CIA agents Donna (Donna Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) accidentally unleash a venomous mutant python on a remote island while they’re supposed to be investigating two murders—vice cops hung upside down and blown away by a sinister drug lord. Donna’s bronzed boyfriend Rowdy Abilene (Ron Moss, of the soap opera The Bold And The Beautiful) is a lousy shot, but he puts in the hours running recon, while his buddy Jade (Harold Diamond) is spy-obsessed in his own right—but, sadly, also a dunce. The dudes are backslappers in khaki shorts, regularly addressing each other as “turkey” and running off to, or returning from, some looming, omnipresent offscreen commercial break. The characters are empty-headed simulacra, floating in a curdled Hollywood netherverse with no future and no past, fighting because that’s what they’re supposed to do, having sex because they’ve been paired up before the first day of shooting, laughing because they’re being handed pieces of dialogue.
Like the best junk cinema, it weaves a certain spell—probably because everyone obviously had a pretty good time making it. As screenwriter, Sidaris takes pride in having his characters spout lines that nobody in American society would ever utter aloud. (“I don’t want to control your life. All I wanna do is suck the polish right off your toes.”) Whatever the contours of his real life, it’s obvious where the director sought to treat some pain onscreen: an inveterate sports TV producer, he plays himself in a bit part as an inveterate sports TV producer. During a live broadcast interview, a black football star casually uses the word “nigger”; for the first and only time in the movie, people are aghast. The host brings his forehead down to the table. Sidaris runs into the the frame, swivels towards the camera, gets down on one knee, and wheezes: “I can’t believe it! Our career is over!” Is he putting on a show for his camera, or for ours?