Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Ghoul Versus The Andy Sidaris Collection: Picasso Trigger

I feel like when there's nudity required, it's there. Certainly some of it is gratuitous, I'm not going to lie to you, but hey, that's what we're here for. In the play 42nd Street, where he says 'You go on that stage an unknown, you come off that stage a star', I say 'You step into that hot tub an unknown, you step out that hot tub a star'.” - Andy Sidaris

Previously on Hard Ticket To Hawaii...

Andy Sidaris graced the world of cinema with a movie that feels like it was conceived by teenage boys, and yet was a billion times more intelligent and fun than any of the Fast and the Furious movies. We met Donna and Taryn, agents of the DEA whose hobbies include fighting crime, giving tours of Hawaii, hauling cancer infested snakes around, and talking to each other topless. They're back for another round in what is looking like a Cinematic Universe, so SUCK IT MARVEL.

Picasso Trigger is the third movie in the Andy Sidaris collection, released a year after Hard Ticket To Hawaii. This is among the more obscure Sidaris films, a lot of this is likely due to its bizarre and non-attention grabbing title. The Picasso Trigger is actually the state fish of Hawaii, a very beautiful and multi-coloured fish. That doesn't exactly scream a movie with hot babes and guns, so a lot of video stores probably didn't order the title heavily when its name popped up on their forms in 1988. WE however all know better, so let's see what awaits our identical heroines in A Ghoul Versus Picasso Trigger!

We open ON LOCATION in Paris, France, because Sidaris is not one to fuck around! A man in a huge mansion is given a package from a courier representing Miguel Ortiz, opening it to find a VHS tape inside. He plays it to find a recording from Ortiz detailing the upcoming murders of several federal agents in retaliation for the murder of his brother Luca. France Man is going to be aiding the plan by killing one of the agents in Texas, while other teams will strike in Las Vegas and Hawaii. France Man gets in his car and is driven away, while his assistant gets in a sidecar being driven by a helmeted motorcycle driver.

The two tail France Man to an art gallery, where he's the guest of honour as he's donating a very famous painting of a picasso trigger. After his presentation a woman comes up to him and discusses... something that sounds kind of threatening. It appears that was the case, as France Man goes outside for a smoke and is fatally shot by his assistant. These rich guys, will they EVER learn to conclude background checks on their hired help? Honestly!  We cut to Honolulu and the famed Malibu Express boat, which is now owned by a guy named Travis wearing a VERY disturbingly tiny speedo. I do believe the kids call them “banana hammocks” these days. He's ripped though, so you can't accuse Sidaris of only catering to male audiences.
I'm guessing he must be another Abilene cousin since he now has possession of the boat, making me wonder what happened to Rowdy? Travis gets a call from his uncle and fellow DEA agent, LG, who tells him the Picasso Trigger (the code name of France Man) is now dead and warns him to watch his back. Yeah whatever, this is a LOT of story so let's go to Las Vegas to check out the dancing skills of Kym and Patticakes, and yes it's the same Patticakes from the last film. I'm guessing Edy must have recruited her for the agency.

Breaking all expectations, the camera barely lingers on the ladies and instead focuses on some federal agents in the club talking about one of the patrons: a man named Schiavo who engages in human trafficking and snuff films. The agents are bitching about their inability to nail Schiavo with any sort of case, as they're getting replaced by the undercover Kym and Patticakes. The lame duck agents leave the club, given flowers by a waitress that secretly have tracking devices as planted by one of Schiavo's goons. They head outside in the middle of the day, despite the establishing shot of Vegas showing it was night time. Oops!

They get in their car and start driving back to the office, listening to a report on the radio about the assassination of the Picasso Trigger, aka Alejandro Philippe Salazar. One of the agents is pleased by this, as he was an international drug dealer responsible for flooding the streets with coke. The other agent notices they're being follow by a helicopter, too late though as the passenger pulls out a bazooka and blows their asses to Kingdom Come. Geez, and I thought Hard Ticket to Hawaii had a lot of stuff going on! This has been fourteen minutes of set ups for what promises to be a labyrinthine maze of plot twists and incoherence!

We return to Honolulu and the old haunt Edy's, Miss Edy now sporting a dark dye job. She walks around the restaurant greeting her patrons, including one Miguel Ortiz. I didn't notice it from the VHS tape, but he's placed by Rodrigo Obregon, the actor who played the Unluckiest Son of a Bitch EVER in the form of Seth Romero. His hair is much longer and he has a beard now, so it's not distracting or anything. Miguel and his henchman leave the building, the henchman paying a waitress to give a young couple nearby a pair of leis. Mmm, I know where this is going...

Edy sits down with the couple, who are revealed to be working for the Agency. After talking about how there's danger in the air, they leave and are promptly shot dead by two thugs waiting outside. They contact Miguel via a pager to let him know the deed is done, the crime lord pleased and saying next stop is Maui to kill a woman who testified against his brother. This transitions to a shot of Taryn asleep on a house boat, woken up by a lingerie clad Donna.
Lingerie is nice and all, but this IS a Sidaris film so Donna strips down to take a shower, making it almost twenty minutes before we saw boobs in this thing. That, my friends, is called RESTRAINT. The two throw on wetsuits and go diving, which is a good thing because the thugs fly an explosive remote control airplane into their boat and blow it the fuck up. Aww man, all their underwear was in there! Ortiz, watching the whole thing unfold, leaves as he thinks the women were on the boat and are now sleeping with the picasso triggers.

We go to Texas where LG survives his assassination attempt carried out by a pair of thugs in a van. He calls Travis, wanting him to come to Dallas to figure out who's doing all the killing. He says he's bringing in another agent named Pantera to help with the operation, as she worked with Salazar for two years undercover. Donna and Taryn hitch a ride on a train, where they try to figure out who would want them dead. In a nice bit of continuity, Taryn wonders if it's someone from her past before she entered the witness protection program, which I never thought would be mentioned ever again. In an even nicer bit of continuity, Taryn takes a break from her latest life or death situation to flirt with a handsome guy making googly eyes at her. As always, she's all about them priorities. It is a genuinely funny scene though, as I think Hope Marie Carlton might have taken some acting lessons since we last saw her.

We cut to... oh crap, JADE, actor extraordinaire. He walks through an aquatic museum... and that's the scene. Well, whatever keeps him from talking I am one hundred percent behind. Pantera, who is the woman who vaguely threatened Salazar in Paris, arrives at the Dallas airport. Yet another Playmate recruited by Sidaris, she is Roberta Vasquez, winner of Miss November 1984. As she rides down the escalator, we can see the two thugs who tried to kill LG watching her from a balcony. She boards a limo and leaves the airport, the thugs following her in their van.

While flying back to Honolulu, Donna and Taryn call Jade to update him on things. I think Harold Diamond definitely HAS NOT taken some acting lessons since we last saw him. Travis arrives in Dallas and meets with Pantera at her hotel, the lovely agent addressing him as Travis Abilene so he is indeed another of the Abilene family. She answers the door in lingerie, so you can already tell where this is going, even moreso when we learn they dated in college. They go to a cowboy bar to dance, or in Travis' case, have some kind of odd seizure on the floor. Travis is definitely a disgrace to the Abilene name, whereas his cousins had a goofy charisma and charm about them, he just comes off as a douche bag trying to act cool. And, to make things even worse, he makes Harold Diamond seem like a GOOD ACTOR.

This leads to an off camera sex scene between the two, during which Pantera does NOT get naked. Are we sure Sidaris directed this thing?! I'm really starting to wonder now... The next morning they drive out to a cafe to meet with LG, where Pantera discusses her belief Ortiz is behind Salazar's murder. The two thugs show up here as well, Travis and LG leading them outside for a boat chase scene. We see Travis shares the Abilene family tradition of being a HORRID shot, missing every bullet he fires at their pursuers. Pantera ends up bailing his ass out by using a sniper rifle to kill one of them, while LG pulls out his gun and takes out the other. Making their way back to land, Travis calls Jade to round up the posse and meet him in Vegas... for some reason. I'm not exactly sure what's going on here.

A jarring title card informs us it's Thursday as we return to Vegas where the entire cast and some random DEA agents are meeting in a hotel room. Travis does a slide presentation to catch everyone up on the plot but only seeks in making it more confusing as he begins to detail all the various men involved in Ortiz's empire, most of which we haven't SEEN yet. It also doesn't help all the unnamed DEA agents begin offering their insights, making basically a dozen new characters we have to keep track of. We do get a trace of the old Sidaris style as Donna INSTANTLY hates Pantera because Travis was her man at some point, so just takes endless potshots at her in a completely out of character bitchy fashion.

The meeting ends, Donna talking with Travis in his room about how she doesn't trust Pantera. She then completely returns to her old character by getting completely naked and having sex with him. That's our Donna! And wow Travis, way to be a TOTAL asshole after Pantera just got done telling you how much she still cares for you. It is now Friday in Honolulu, where our old friends Jimmy John Jackson and Whitey are playing a round of golf. OH JOY, Triple J is back for this one. I anxiously await for a half hour rant about Vitamin B. Taryn goes to see her old flame and make some golf related sexual innuendos, as she really wants me to rescind my statement about her taking acting lessons.

Kym and Patticakes finish another Vegas show, Schiavo trying to recruit them as they're walking off stage. They agree to meet with him later, continuing their assignment of infiltrating his operation. You feel like this is at least three different movies they combined into one just to save some money? Case in point, the next scene has Travis and Donna on a plane flying... somewhere, I'm not even sure. They just got done joining the Mile High Club because Travis is classy like that, when Donna goes to light a cigarette off her watch-lighter thing. This gives Travis a light bulb over his head and he pulls out Salazar's file. Looking at the crime scene photos, he notices the watch on his arm changed positions between pictures. How in the hell he made that connection is beyond me, but hey it sure was convenient for the plot!

What else? Taryn and Triple J having sex in a hot tub, SEEN IT. Next! Travis and Donna arrive in Hawaii where they meet with a guy named the Professor who gives them a whole bunch of low rent James Bond explosive devices. The Professor is played by Richard LePore, who also played the warehouse boss in Hard Ticket to Hawaii who was trying to get the cancer snake under control. He's not even TRYING to be a different character here, so maybe he's playing the same guy. Once again I have no clue.

We switch to footage of... Edy? Patticakes? Some brunette woman working out and then getting her shirt taken off by... some guy. No wait, that's Jade so she must be Edy. The amount of actors in this film is WAY TOO DAMN HIGH. And just like ninety percent of the scenes in this movie, it ends without advancing the story in the slightest. What are they supposed to be doing? What is going on here?! The Professor gives Travis a cybernetic crutch that he says will “give him a leg up”, ba dum tsss. A title card moves us to Saturday, as we see Edy and Jade sneaking into the building of one of the bad guys as undercover phone technicians. Why is Edy part of the team? Isn't she just some kind of informant? When the hell would she have gotten field training?

This scene is amusing because Harold Diamond MUST have had it written somewhere in his contract he is to never appear in a scene with his chest covered up. Since his introduction into the Sidarisverse he has yet to wear a closed shirt, and he's keeping this going by refusing to zip up his worker overalls. He could give Taylor Lautner a run for most Blatant Male Shirtlessness in a movie. The point of this scene is our agents arrange to meet the bad guys tomorrow so they can “fix their phones”, when in reality the DEA are setting all the bad guys up so they can arrest them at the same time on Sunday. Why, you may ask? Andy Sidaris, that's why.

After successfully arranging to meet Schiavo tomorrow for a “private session”, Kym and Patticakes retire to their room because we haven't seen them naked yet and it's been OVER AN HOUR of movie time already. MADNESS! I take that back, because the TRUE madness is Patticakes says she's going to hit the jacuzzi (one could probably make a drinking game out of that line in the Sidarisverse) and Kym DOESN'T join her. WHAT IN HOLY HELL?! Kym Malin, Playboy's Miss May 1982, played the uber creatively named Kym and would go on to feature in four more Sidaris films. Malin is actually one of the more mainstream actors in these movies, as she also had bit parts in Die Hard and Road House, but 1980s movie buffs will best remember her from the VASTLY underrated 1983 comedy hit Joysticks. The film alternates between showing Kym taking a shower and Patticakes soaking in the tub, which is about the extent of their character development.

Sunday rolls around and NOW shit is about to get real, so I hope you're buckled in! HA HAH, just kidding! Some of the most boring and poorly shot action footage EVER follows, not to mention nonsensical but the agents just start killing the bad guys instead of arresting them, despite Travis saying how important it was to take them into custody. My favourite part is where Patticakes gets shot in the face, but ends up being just fine because the bullet only grazed her temple. She must be rocking an adamantium skeleton under that lovely frame of hers. The heroic murder spree continues until everyone, including Ortiz, lies dead via bullet holes, defenestration, or explosions. That is about an anticlimactic as you can get!
Why in the world did the movie create three different groups of villains instead of focusing on a single one that might have actually meant someth- you know what? Boobs.  We're not done though, because there's still the Salazar business to deal with. Not only is he still alive, PANTERA has been working with him the entire time. I guess that does excuse Travis cheating on her right and left, but only barely. We get Salazar's master plan: he purposely botched the assassination attempt on LG so he could rally the Agency and take out all of Salazar's cronies, leaving just him running the show.

Travis, who entered Salazar's house using the crutch the Professor gave him, uses it to scan Salazar's chest and type a number on the keypad. What he's doing isn't explained in the slightest and the Big Bad seems content to let him do it, so... no big deal I guess? Salazar rants forever about nothing until Travis gets bored and fires a missile out of the crutch that misses. This leads to a seemingly never ending action sequence where Donna kills both Pantera and Salazar while Travis does FUCK ALL, so at least there's that.

This movie is STILL going on as we return to Ortiz's mansion where Salazar revealed himself, where we see a foot nudging Pantera's body to make sure she's dead. The camera pans up to reveal... it's SALAZAR! Dun dun duuu- WHAT THE FUCK?! What, does this guy just have a cloning factory pumping out nonstop decoys of himself? Did he steal David Bowie's machine from the Prestige? Unfortunately for him, Travis and his mega-psychic powers strike again so our douche canoe hero pulls out his crutch gun and types in the number he got earlier. This fires a heat seeking missile out of the crutch and directly at Salazar, blowing up what has to be at least the sixth person in the movie. With the level of intuition Travis possesses, he really should get a job coordinating military strikes because his talents are really being wasted busting random drug lords that pretty much only kill other drug lords.

Another ending, another group shot of the cast gathered around drinking. It's NOT on the Malibu Express however, so epic fail there. Edy uses her one brain cell and asks how Travis knew Salazar was still alive, although she fails to specify WHICH time. Travis replies:

“Well you see I had a hunch, so I set the computer to the coordinates on the pacemaker and the homing device did the rest.”

THAT LITERALLY ISN'T AN ANSWER, TRAVIS!  Salazar did have a pacemaker, which was explained in one line of dialogue very early on. What ISN'T explained is how Travis knew to use the crutch to scan his pacemaker, or how he even knew that would work. Maybe, JUST MAYBE, a scene where the Professor told him what the fuck the crutch could do would have been helpful! I'm just saying... The film ends exactly the way the last one did, with Taryn declaring she's going to take the real Picasso Trigger painting (which she stole from Salazar's house) and sell it. Everyone toasts to her kleptomaniac ways.

Cue the credits.

Earlier I said this felt like several movies mashed into one, and I stand fervently by that. There is just way too much going on here to the point where nothing gets developed and no one gets any kind of focus to make you care about ANY of it. I know that's a foolish complaint for the Sidarisverse but I'm not going to lie, the previous two films were crafted well enough where I was pretty damn invested in what happened. And you know WHY? Because those movies were fun.

Picasso Trigger was barely fun at all. We not only got a completely uncharismatic asshole in the form of Travis, the usually bubbly Donna and Taryn were shoved to the back so a bunch of other nondescript characters could hog the spotlight. They were all dull and lack the zaniness of previous players in the Sidarisverse, so this movie just began to draaaaaaaaaaaaaaag. It felt at least twice as long as it was, which is something I should never have to say about a B-movie built on bullets, bombs, and boobs. Skip this one wholeheartedly.