Monday, May 20, 2024

24 Hours of Movies: Charlie Sheen

 by Patrick Bromley


Since being hit with the realization that Charlie Sheen is, in fact, one of my guys on a recent podcast (thanks, Rosalie!), I have gone down a Charlie Sheen rabbit hole the likes of which you have probably never seen. I have watched and/or rewatched most of his filmography. I have even been watching Two and a Half Men. I have become the internet's foremost expert on the work of Charlie Sheen. With that in mind, I wanted to program one of my marathons acknowledging that this is a deeply troubled man but celebrating the awesomeness of his on screen work. Let's watch some Chuck Sheen movies!

10 am - Lucas (1986, dir. David Seltzer)
Let's kick things off with one of my very favorite Charlie Sheen performances, albeit one that's uncharacteristic with the rest of his filmography. In this, one of the best coming of age movies of the 1980s, he plays the sensitive jock who competes with Corey Haim's titular Lucas for the heart of Kerri Green, because who wouldn't? It would have been so easy to make his character a douche but Sheen (and the screenplay by David Seltzer) is smart enough to make him sensitive and nice. He likes Lucas and feels terrible about being party to his heartbreak. We're so used to Sheen playing the bad boy that it's easy to forget how good he can be as a nice guy. This is such a wonderful movie. Sheen and Green would reunite a year later for the romantic comedy Three for the Road, the movie that would more or less end her mainstream acting career.

11:45 am - Hot Shots! (1991, dir. Jim Abrahams)
If Major League revealed some untapped comic potential in Charlie Sheen, Hot Shots! unleashed a master. Having established himself as an action star one year before, Sheen spoofed that image with this Top Gun knock-off in the Airplane! tradition. He's the excellently-named Topper Harley, a fighter pilot who doubts his own awesomeness until he is reminded that he is, in fact, awesome. Funny supporting performances (from the likes of Lloyd Bridges, Valeria Golino, and Sheen's future Two and a Half Men co-star Jon Cryer) and a high laughs-per-joke ratio make this one of the better of this kind of comedy, with Sheen doing amazing deadpan and totally committing to the self-seriousness of the role while always being in on the joke. I love the idea of programming this second to kick things up, like putting The Ramones second on a mix tape.

1:15 pm - Navy SEALS (1990, dir. Lewis Teague)
Charlie Sheen tried to change his image in 1990 by becoming an action star. It actually kind of worked, though I don't know how much Navy SEALS ultimately had to do with it. Here he plays the cockiest member of a SEAL team that includes Michael Biehn, Dennis Haysbert, and Bill Paxton who are sent in to take out a militia overseas. The plotting is incredibly shaggy and the politics vaguely racist, a leftover from the '80s when Cannon Films were cranking out this kind of movie on the regular. I'm not sure anyone was super happy with this one, including last-minute replacement director Lewis Teague, a filmmaker I like. I'm putting this here to change up the energy of the marathon and because the cast is great even when the pieces don't all come together. Someone get me this 4K from Vinegar Syndrome K thanks.

3:15 pm - Money Talks (1997, dir. Brett Ratner)
Few things hit like late-'90s New Line movies, and even fewer things hit like Charlie Sheen buddy movies. While it's probably best known these days either as Brett Ratner's first film or as the movie Chris Tucker made between Friday and Rush Hour, Money Talks represents an interesting period in Charlie Sheen's career because he's playing second banana/elder statesman just seven years after the roles were reversed in The Rookie (which is coming up later). He's there to prop the story up, as the movie exists to launch Chris Tucker to stardom, which it helped to do. It's not as good as 48 Hrs., but that's clearly Ratner's reference point: Money Talks is fast-talking, profane, surprisingly violent, and funny. Sheen's film career seems to already be winding down by now; he would move to television and take over for Michael J. Fox on Spin City just a few years after this and would later become the highest paid actor on TV for Two and a Half Men.

5 pm - Young Guns (1988, dir. Christopher Cain)
Though he only has a supporting role in the excellent Brat Pack western Young Guns, Charlie Sheen's performance is pivotal to the film and his absence after he exits is deeply felt, intentionally so. One of several movies he made opposite his brother Emilio Estevez (playing Billy the Kid), Young Guns casts Sheen as Dick Brewer, the leader of a group of ranch hands called the Regulators. He's on hand to lend star power to the movie more so than give a performance, but his casting is effective in achieving exactly what the filmmakers want to achieve. I like that we'll get to watch a western during our marathon, especially one that kicks as much ass as Young Guns

7 pm - Wall Street (1987, dir. Oliver Stone)
Giving the Prime Time slot over to Charlie Sheen's most high-profile role this side of Platoon, reuniting him with director Oliver Stone as Bud Fox, a young stockbroker who is seduced to the Dark Side of capitalism by Gordon "Greed is Good' Gekko (Michael Douglas in his Oscar-winning performance). Wall Street finds Charlie Sheen at his respectable leading man peak, perfectly cast as someone who is well-intentioned but easily corrupted. He probably could have coasted to a career of this type of role, but was clearly more interested in changing up his image and doing different kinds of movies. Let's order some pizza and enjoy Wall Street as Charlie Sheen's last true grab at the mainstream.

9:15 pm - The Rookie (1990, dir. Clint Eastwood)
Sheen's other action movie of 1990 is more successful in its intentions than Navy SEALS, teaming the actor with Clint Eastwood as cops trying to take down German car thieves (played by famously German Raul Julia and Sonia Braga). Despite some thin characterizations and weird sex stuff (because Clint Eastwood), Charlie Sheen acquits himself very well as an action hero, particularly in the film's second half when he gets to take over the movie. The stunts and action are pretty awesome in a movie I'm close to loving even when I should know better.

11:15 pm - The Arrival (1996, dir. David Twohy)
Charlie Sheen meets aliens! That's how I sold my high school girlfriend on going to see The Arrival with me on opening night in 1996. This thriller casts Sheen as Zane, a radio astronomer who discovers the existence of aliens and is immediately part of a conspiracy to cover them up. Writer/director David Twohy's movie is less pulpy than his usual output (the Vin Diesel Riddick movies, for example), but instead combines '90s sci-fi concepts with '70s paranoia with pretty decent results. Sheen's sweaty intensity is put to such good use here that his performance is able to overcome his worst haircut.

1:15 am - The Wraith (1986, dir. Mike Marvin)
The closest thing Charlie Sheen has made to a horror movie -- and therefore perfect for the overnight slot -- is this reworking of High Plains Drifter in which Sheen plays a new kid who arrives in town around the same time that a mysterious biker has appeared to take revenge on a gang of punks. Charlie Sheen is more or less neutered as the nice guy mirror image of The Wraith, but the rest of the cast (which includes Nick Cassavetes, Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid, and Clint Howard with Thomas Dolby hair) is lively and the stunts, which tragically cost the life of a camera operator, are amazing. Watching this one so late in the night/early in the morning will be perfect because we can let the total lack of logic just wash over us.

2:45 am - The Boys Next Door (1985, dir. Penelope Spheeris)
One of Sheen's earliest roles is exactly right for the overnight slot. He plays half of a pair of teenagers (alongside Maxwell Caulfield) who leave their small town to go to Los Angles where they embark on a crime and murder spree. Surprisingly, it's Caulfield who probably pops more in this one, though The Boys Next Door probably helped to establish Charlie as the edgier of the two Estevez brothers (Emilio was playing a sensitive jock in The Breakfast Club this same year). He became a movie star so quickly that he didn't get to make much more cheap, violent, punk rock sleaze like this.

4:15 am - Men at Work (1990, dir. Emilio Estevez)
This underseen comedy -- one of six movies Sheen made in 1990 -- teams the star with his brother Emilio Estevez (who also wrote and directed) again in a story of two garbage men who uncover a murder plot. Though Estevez has a tendency to go quite broad with the comedy (down to the chirping bird sounds when someone gets knocked unconscious), there are a lot of genuine laughs and a good overall vibe to Men at Work. While Keith David is the film's MVP, Sheen and Estevez are a terrific comic team; it's a shame we didn't get more movies with the two of them as co-leads.

5:45 am - The Three Musketeers (1993, dir. Stephen Herek)
I'm programming this one to wake us up because it rules. Charlie Sheen isn't even my favorite part of the movie (that would be Oliver Platt), but it doesn't hurt to have him in a movie I already love. While possibly/probably not faithful to the Alexandre Dumas source novel, it's spectacularly lively and entertaining and light on its feet in a way more movies should be, buoyed by an insanely great ensemble that includes Sheen as Aramis, the most pious of the Musketeers who, don't worry, still slays with the chicks. Listen to our recent podcast on this one to hear me gush all about it and come to the realization that Charlie Sheen is one of my guys.

7:15 am - No Man's Land (1987, dir. Peter Werner)
As the sun rises, let's enjoy Chuck Sheen at his slimy, magnetic best. This is the original Point Break. The original The Fast & the Furious. D.B. Sweeney plays a cop who goes deep, deep, deep undercover to catch a car thief (Sheen) and winds up guessed it...too close. Directed with energy and style by Peter Werner (from a Dick "Law & Order" Wolf script!), No Man's Land really sells us on Sheen, possibly because D.B. Sweeney, while a very nice guy, is a little bit of a mayonnaise sandwich. It's hard to believe he had this and Wall Street out in the same year; this feels like a movie the actor made before Platoon but which got released after, even though there's no evidence that's the case. He and Sweeney would reunite a couple of years later for Eight Men Out, another great movie that I'm not programming in this lineup because we only have room for one Charlie Sheen baseball movie.

8:45 am - Major League (1989, dir. David S. Ward)
And here it is! Outside of his movie-stealing turn in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Major League feels like the birth of Charlie Sheen as a brilliant comic actor. He gives one of his best performances as "Wild Thing" Ricky Vaughn, one of my favorite movie characters ever, a pitcher recently released from prison who quickly becomes baseball's Bad Boy on a struggling Cleveland team. I know there are diehard baseball fans who are indifferent towards Major League (our own Reserved Seating boys said as much back when they reviewed it) but it's always been one of my favorite sports comedies. I'm less a fan of the sequel, in which Sheen's arc is that his character has gone legit. Don't neuter the Wild Thing.

10:45 am - Terminal Velocity (1994, dir. Deran Sarafian)
There's no way I'm going to end our Charlie Sheen marathon without programming Terminal Velocity, one of my favorite movies starring the actor giving one of his very best performances as a dummy who winds up an action hero. He's skydiver Ditch Brody -- the only Sheen character name better than Topper Harley -- who finds himself at the center of a Russian conspiracy that teams him with a secret agent (Nastassja Kinski) he thought to be dead. David Twohy's script is ridiculous and fun with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, and director Deran Sarafian goes so gonzo with the action it borders on cartoonish. Everything about this movie hums, and I'm so happy to be ending our Sheenathon on such a high note.


  1. Lucas was a big discovery for me a few Junes ago, I really loved it.

  2. I'm surprised at how many Sheen movies i never saw. I should start working on that

  3. Emilio and Charlie was also co leads in the less sucessful Rated X a "true story dramadey" about 2 porn producers also directed by Emilio

    1. The story it's based is pretty the podcast The Dollop covered it and I think it could be a great movie. But not sure if Emilio Estevez is the right director to tell that story. But I think it's worth a watch, at least Charlie is one of your guys:)

  4. ha! i started writing "im caught off guard by how many of these i havent seen...i will absolutely start watching them" and then saw Kunider wrote almost the same thing. great minds think alike! Thanks Patrick for the outstanding list!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. hrmmm...i wonder if i can use a free day next month for Sheensploitation?

    2. Sheen should definitely have a day

  5. The list is a reminder of how big he became in the late 1980s and early '90s. I watched The Wraith, Major League, and Young Guns many times on cable. I probably saw Men at Work and Navy Seals that way. My father rented The Rookie on VHS, but I do not recall much about it.

  6. I've been on a Sheen kick lately too but I've missed a couple of these - I shall rectify that imminently! Thanks.