Big Shots (1987)

17 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Big Shots” comes across as a sort-of modern-day retelling of “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn.” The film features two young boys from opposite sides of the tracks—one (who’s white) is from a nice suburban home (he reminds me of Tom Sawyer in some sense) and the other (who’s black) is a street kid in Chicago (he, of course, reminds me of Huck). They team up to have all sorts of improbable yet enjoyable adventures and also become the best of friends.

We start off getting to know the suburbanite kid named Obie (Ricky Busker), who is about eleven years old. The film opens with him and his father going fishing in a boat on the lake. His father is trying to tell him about the birds and the bees but Obie disgustedly complains, “How come you gotta tell me this sick stuff all the time?” His father replies, “My father never told me at your age.” Obie asks, “Then why do you have to tell me?” In a few days, the father dies of a fatal heart attack, leaving Obie distraught with the only heirloom that his father would love for him to have—his watch. Obie runs away from his safe urban home and drives his bike into the streets of downtown Chicago. It isn’t long before he gets mugged, with his bike and his father’s watch stolen.

He meets Scam (Darius McCrary), a boy about the same age as Obie. He’s a homeless kid who lives in the basement of a hotel, lying to the desk clerk that his father is coming. He’s a smooth-talking, wise-cracking kid with a lot of tricks up his sleeves—like carrying cap guns to pose as threats and lying a lot. He decides to help Obie get his watch back. This leads them to a character named Johnny Red (Paul Winfield), a jive-talking hustler, and a crooked pawn shop owner (Robert Prosky). It also leads them to a series of adventures that would fit in at a lineup of TV cop shows. These two eleven-year-old kids are driving like they’re in a TV cop show. They have a chase scene where they race to escape the oncoming cops after they rob that pawn shop with realistic-looking cap guns.

Those scenes are improbable and ultimately ridiculous. And the movie shows a lot of adventures for these kids to overcome, like driving all the way to Louisiana with a car they stole. They search for Scam’s father but all they have to go on is an old driver’s license. Anyway, the stolen car belongs to two mobsters (Robert Joy and Jerzy Skolimowski) who chase the kids down to get their car back. Why? Because the car has a dead body in its trunk. The kids don’t know that. They just know these two guys are bad news.

Like I said, this is completely ridiculous. What I liked about “Big Shots” were the performances by Ricky Busker and Darius McCrary and the friendship their characters develop. They’re fun to watch, even through the action sequences. And there’s a heart to the story when the kids actually take time to talk about their own fathers—how one of them is dead and the other is gone away. Obie lost his own father and really wants to help Scam get to his—so there’s a sense of redemption. I liked these two kids. Ricky Busker is a bit annoying as Obie at first but as the movie progresses, so does he. Darius McCrary is appealingly wise-cracking as Scam.

I’m giving “Big Shots” three stars. It’s not a great movie but an enjoyable one. If the director Robert Mandel wanted a better movie, he would’ve actually told a story about these two kids instead of surrounding them with all sorts of ridiculousness.

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One Response to “Big Shots (1987)”

  1. Marc June 28, 2014 at 12:11 am #

    Thank You! Been looking for this film for ages. 😀

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