Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crackerjack 2 (1997)

Okay, remember what happened in Crackerjack? You don’t have to, because in this curious sequel to Jack Wild’s (now Judge Reinhold) – called “Crackerjack” by exactly no one – misadventures, it didn’t happen. So Wild’s still a wild card (sorry) with spurts of violence, he’s still an asshole cop, and he’s lost his wife – though no children this time around - to an exploding car. Unlike that other Jack Wild, Jack MKII has somehow acquired attractive investment whatever girlfriend Dana Townsend (Carol Alt).

Of course, Jack’s still trying to apprehend the guy who killed this version of his wife, one Hans Becker (a Karel Roden looking barely able to contain his giggles). As luck will have it, Becker reappears exploding a warehouse and inadvertently provoking a fall-out between Jack and his much-hated boss.

As luck will have it, Becker is now working as the second fiddle to evil mastermind Mister Smith (Michael Sarrazin). Smith has a great plan, you see – catching a whole train full of rich investor-type people, trapping them in a combined railroad tunnel/bunker complex and using a computer wizard and brute force to get a their accounts while the police still think the bad guys have simply hijacked the still rolling train. It’s a plan brilliant in its simplicity, I’m sure.

Guess whose girlfriend just happens to be on that train? And guess who soon finds himself playing “Die Hard in a railroad tunnel/bunker complex”?

My mind, it boggles a bit at Robert Lee’s Crackerjack 2. Not just at a plot that seems to be based on something a producer’s five year old nephew came up with (because that sort of thing is par for the course in direct to video action cinema), for Crackerjack 2 contains a baker’s dozen of strangenesses much stranger than its mere plot. Like, why retcon the first movie out of existence in this way when you might surely have found another way to make Jack crack again (or just pretend he never got better)? Why make Becker the killer of Jack’s wife when you’re not going to milk that for all it is worth (and it would in fact have been better to make Mister Smith the wife killer)? Usually, I’d answer that with the idea the producers had a script with a different hero (such as he is) around somewhere and  only changed a few character names to attach themselves to the success of the first film. But then, can Crackerjack have been actually so successful it’s worth that kind of effort? As I said, the mind, it boggles.

It boggles even more at the producers’ decision of casting Judge Reinhold of all actors willing to do everything for a pay check in the world as the new Jack. Reinhold surely is one of the thespians least fit to play a cop on the edge role, leading to a performance that fluctuates between awkward, just plain ridiculous (though it’s clearly not supposed to), and what the hell is that man doing there!? One can’t blame Reinhold for lacking in enthusiasm for the role though, and if you give actors points for relish – which I do – Reinhold certainly wins the movie, even compared with a scenery chewing Sarrazin who loves to be evil and an absolutely outrageous (just look at all the grinning SMG air shooting she does at the slightest provocation!) performance by Katerina Brozová as Sarrazin’s (evil) girlfriend.

Also not good for one’s mental health while watching are the script’s regular attempts at call-backs to the first movie (yes, the movie that can’t have happened in the world this one takes place in), with the marine attack from the first film replaced by a less creative airborne attack on the empty train that is at least realized in miniature effects of equal adorableness, and certain scenes virtual mirrors of ones in the first film without need or reason.

If all this sounds as if Crackerjack 2 were a giant mess of a movie that makes the writing in the first one look like Shakespeare (well, more like Zschokke), and has the creative independence and intelligence of a PR shill, that’s exactly what it is. It’s also a great big heap of fun to inflict this thing on one’s brain. If one’s brain can take it, of course.

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