Wednesday 15 May 2019

Hard Ticket To Hawaii (Andy Sidaris, 1987) Review

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“We need to figure out what just happened … let's unload and hit the jacuzzi. I do my best thinking there.” Where on earth do you start with a movie like this? From the heyday of Cinemax (or 'Skin-emax' as it was nicknamed) comes this none-more-80s explosion of exotic locations, big hair, bigger guns, rampant nudity, and a giant snake contaminated with weaponised cancer … yes, you read that right, and it's far from the only utterly insane thing that happens in this flick...

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“Are you kidding? I've got better things to do with my body temperature.” Loosely connected to its predecessor Malibu Express (1985), Hard Ticket To Hawaii is the second entry in what could essentially be considered a 'cinematic universe', that being the crazed world of Andy Sidaris. Spanning twelve movies from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, the essential ingredients can be summed up with the various titles afforded to the boxed set collections: bullets, bombs, and babes as well as guns, girls, and g-strings. With various recurring actors and characters with little story details picked up where previous movies left off, the experience for the viewer is akin to peeking into an alternative universe where absolutely nothing is taken seriously.

“I'll have a pair of coffee.” On the Hawaiian island of Molokai, two local police officers head into the lush greenery to collect their pay-off from a family-run marijuana operation, only to find themselves in for a rude surprise when a well-armed force traps kills them without a second thought. It looks like this tropical paradise is about to turn into a war zone! Meanwhile, DEA agent – and pilot for agency cover operation Molokai Cargo – Donna (Playboy Playmate Dona Spier and one of Sidaris' regular actresses, e.g. Savage Beach) has a honeymooning couple and a boa constrictor to transport with the help of Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton, Slumber Party Massacre III, Picasso Trigger), a civilian under witness protection who seems to spend an awful lot of the movie telling other people that she is in witness protection! But wait a minute – due to a warehouse slip-up they're actually transporting the aforementioned snake that is contaminated with some kind of weaponised cancer that it contracted from a bunch of lab rats. Yep, you're right, folks, this movie is fucking crazy – and it's only just got started!

“If brains were bird shit you'd have a clean cage.” Donna and Taryn stumble into the diamond-smuggling ring that is run by slick 80s movie villain-looking dude Seth Romero (Rodrigo Obregón, Collateral Damage) on behalf of half-British, half-Chinese (but definitely not in the slightest bit Chinese in appearance) drug lord and katana sword enthusiast Mr Chang (Peter Bromilow). After heading back to their beach house – to investigate the mysterious package while topless in a jacuzzi, as you do – Donna and Taryn are assailed by two of Romero's goons. Now the ladies are in real trouble: said goons want the rest of the diamonds back, the contaminated snake is now on the loose, and Romero's none-too-happy that he's been shot in the face! Time for some backup – step forward fellow agents Rowdy Abilene (Ronn Moss, The Bold & The Beautiful) and Jade (Harold Diamond). Load up that rocket launcher and buy the hard ticket to Hawaii!

“Man, he must be smoking some heavy doobies.” There's no two ways about it, this movie has to be seen to be believed. Take, for instance, the scene in which Rowdy and Jade are attacked by one of Romero's goons, who shows up rolling down a public road on a skateboard while doing a handstand, only to swoop back – using a blow-up sex doll as cover – to attempt an assassination. It goes badly for the goon, so very wrong indeed, because Rowdy retaliates by blasting him (and the harmless blow-up doll!) out of the sky with a four-barrelled rocket launcher. Why? Because he's a terrible shot when it comes to bullets, but projectile explosives? He's a crack shot with stellar precision. So keen is Rowdy on the versatility (in his hands) of the rocket launcher, he even uses it for combat scenarios while indoors! This whole sequence isn't the only time the viewer will have to pause, say “hold on, wait a minute” with shocked awe, before rewinding and re-watching, because there's still a weaponised Frisbee and an entire sub-plot revolving around the deadly adventures of the contaminated snake (and much more!!!) to behold.

“I don't wanna control your life, all I wanna do is suck the polish right off your toes.” As previously noted, Hard Ticket To Hawaii was a big hit during the golden age of premium cable exploitation movies. What does that mean? A boatload of nudity, of course. From buxom gals to buff dudes, the dress code for Molokai tops out at a fetching blazer-and-shorts combo but mostly consists of day-glo bikinis or nothing at all. Even the island's uniforms skew towards the skimpy: just see Donna and Taryn's Molokai Cargo outfits – voluminous blonde hair, aviators, cut-off sleeves, short-shorts, and no bra required. Well, I suppose it does get quite hot and sweaty in Hawaii. But don't let that fool you into thinking it's all about salaciousness, as those uniforms are still utilitarian as hell 'cos the boots come equipped with throwing stars!

“If you go down on her you'll be kissing the back of my head 'cos I'm already gonna be there. I think you know what I mean.” The movie will regularly have the viewer stunned into submission with its sights that can't quite be believed, but it will also clobber you over the head with some of its bizarre supporting characters. An exchange between a New York TV producer (played by Sidaris himself) and a budding actress in the island's go-to social hub Edy's, leaves the viewer blind sided. In light of recent times, dialogue like this: “You practically raped me last night.” / “That was last night Charlotte, this is today. I care for your mind, I don't care for your body any more, I'm not into that.” absolutely wouldn't slide, but this was 1987 and the 'casting couch' was still very much a secret, albeit a strangely quite open one. Curiouser still is the fact that this whole exchange, topped off with a Carry On-esque double entendre, never bothers the rest of the plot ever again. The same can be said of the inclusion of the TV producer's sportcaster buddy Jimmy John Jackson (Wolf Larson) and his obsession with prescription vitamins that turn your whizz a colour sure to leave others jealous … wait, what?! Never mind, doesn't matter, have I mentioned Michelle yet?

“I've just found a cure for my boredom, I'll just pretend I'm in a James Bond movie.” This flick couldn't be more 80s if it tried. Martial arts, nun-chucks, exotic locations, and glamorous people were as ubiquitous as back-combed hair. Throw in a blazing yellow Sony Handycam Sports camcorder, a beeper that's also somehow a radio, heavily chewed dialogue that's a mix of cornball terrible and downright awesome, a theme song that's so cheesy it's a full blown Fondue party, elaborate credit sequences as well as 'Merica, fuck yeah! style ass-kicking, and you've got an entire era of fast food Americana rolled into one movie.

N.B. Screenshots are taken from the double-sided 3-disc DVD collection "Girls, Guns, and G-Strings". A superior looking Blu-Ray edition of this film is now available to buy.

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