In the past, black actor-comedians like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy have specialized in the comedy of affront. Often, they’ve been most inspired when they were most hostile (especially to whites). But it’s doubtful that any black comic has refused to ingratiate himself with the ferocity of Chris Tucker. Eyes gleaming like something out of Paris Is Burning, he somehow combines — and escalates — the stylistic aggressions of black urban macho and black urban swish. Tucker’s voice, a screechy put-on wail, is like a siren that talks (and, indeed, never stops talking). He sounds like Michael Jackson on crystal meth, the words shooting out in an arterial spray of insane patter. He’s as insistent as a mosquito (and sometimes as annoying), and when he stings, he draws laughs as well as blood.
As Ruby Rhod, the ambisexual DJ in The Fifth Element, Tucker, swanning around in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s mad couture, seemed regal, outsize. But in Money Talks (New Line), he looks surprisingly small — an imp with a mouth like an Uzi. He plays a street hustler who views every encounter, every sentence, as a chance to shake someone down. Money Talks has been slapped together with all the flair and wit of a bad Damon Wayans comedy. Tucker is teamed with Charlie Sheen as a hapless TV reporter, and these two look very glum together. Yet there’s joy amid the tedium. At a party, Tucker passes himself off as the son of Vic Damone and offers a marital toast that consists entirely of Barry White lyrics. With the right vehicle, Chris Tucker could still be a flash in the pan — or, just maybe, the new Jim Carrey. C+