“Men at Work” Now Available on a MVD Visual Blu-ray at Amazon.com
Garbagemen James and Carl are California dreamers, scoping out babes, riding the surf, and fantasizing about opening their own surf shop business one day. Their day job goes against the grain of their live loose lifestyle, but when they discover a dead body in a trash can, the same dead body that was arguing with a beautiful woman in the building across the street and Carl shot in the butt with a pellet gun the night before, James and Carl no longer have the luxury of fun and games. Their probational, ride along observer, a crazed combat veteran named Louis, doesn’t add to trash-slinging surfers’ comfort other than noting the strangulation marks around the neck, proving their innocence of a pellet gun murder. The three men go into investigation mode and Carl infiltrates into the woman’s apartment for clues on what really happened but what they get themselves mixed into is manufacturer corruption on the highest level and now they’re in the crossfire and crosshairs of an off-shore, toxic waste dumping crime boss.
Seeing siblings on screen together has always been of great interest to myself because for an actor to grow up with another actor from adolescence, there’s some level of comfortability, trust, and likeminded, on the same wavelength, aptitude in the performance dynamic. Brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estévez certainly have a cozy dynamic as two laid-back garbagemen in the dark yet zany comedy, “Men at Work,” despite not sharing their Estévez surname. Of course, this is a 1990 released film and things have changed between them and personally with themselves over the span of 30+ years, but the Emilio Estévez written-and-directed comedy is a snapshot of a relationship pairing that we didn’t see too often. Sure, we received their performances in other genres, such as head-butting cowboys in the western-action “Young Guns” and as two sleazy pornographic film filmmakers divided by their own greed in the Jim and Artie Mitchell biographical picture, “Rated-X,” but we never again get a quirky, smorgasbord comedy that exhibits their distinct dry humor in one package. Set on the beautiful shores of California, include Los Angeles, “Men at Work,” is a studio production from the Trans World Entertainment subsidiary label, Epic Productions, under Moshe Diamant (“Commando Squad,” “Ski Patrol”) and is produced by Cassian Elwes (“Mom and Dad,” “Knock Knock”) and Barbara Stordahl.
Safe to say that most audiences are familiar with the likes of Charlie Sheen and Emilo Estévez between their catalogue of rite of passage movies while growing up in the 1980s through the 1990s. From “Major League” and “Maximum Overdrive” to “Hot Shots” and “Mighty Ducks,” the brothers captured comedy, action, horror, and feel-good films. “Men at Work” is another one of those nostalgia recognized, yet slightly underrated, comedies that hasn’t necessarily aged well in regard to its comedy. Sheen and Estévez are wonderfully poised with a pinch of mania performances surrounding a murder mystery, but the comedy has faded like washed out jeans as we’re numb to these types of comedic devices that have used and overused the last three decades. Keith David, on the other hand, remains just as funny as the day of release as the Vietnam combat-shocked veteran, Louis, who has become James and Karl’s overseer after public complaints. The “They Live” and “The Thing” actor costars alongside Charlie Sheen four years later after the release of Oliver Stone’s “Platoon,” which begs the question whether Estévez and Sheen are meddling with the cinematic universes just a tad, and David brings the intensity, high-energy, and overwhelming brutishness to “Men at Work’s” rather subdued, off-the-cuff antics of investigation work done by a pair of surfer dudes who have not witnessed the horrors of war. The disturbing coolness of stride David’s character takes suits him as an angry vet with a penchant to go against authority. The love interest in this narrative is played by the actress-turned-director Leslie Hope (“Doppelganger,” “Bruiser”) as a dead guy’s political campaign manager who just happened to be at the wrong place, wrong time accidently swapping the incriminating tape with her boss. Did I mention the dead guy is a politician in bed with crime? The “Weekend at Bernie’s” performance by Darrell Larson (“Android”) is one for the ages with Larson providing the slacked jaw, rigor mortis poses, and an overall deadpan dead guy. “The Fly’s” John Getz is a suitable villain Maxwell Potterdam III, as if plucked straight from a comic book, to the quirky comedy despite being a bit hammy at times. Potterdam’s bicker henchmen Mario (John Lavachielli) and Biff (Rufus funk musician Hawk Wolinski) are better suited to entertainment with distinct personalities that made their interactions dry and spot on funny. The cast fills out with Sy Richardson (“Repo Man”), Troy Evans (“Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers”), Geoffry Blake (“The Last Starfighter”), Cameron Dye (“Out of the Dark”), Dean Cameron (“Summer School”), and John Putch (“Jaws 3-D”) and Tommy Hinkley (“Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation”) as bike cops in a very compromising position.
“Men at Work” is one of those memorable films that teeters between the 80s and the 90s. Mullets, denim-on-denim, large three-piece suits, and the breeziness of politically incorrect humor genetically makeup “Men at Work’s” guilty-pleasurable and amusing plot anticipatedly driven well by the two principal leads, Sheen and Estevez, who are thrusted into the wrong place at the wrong time scenario as unlikely, joshing heroes, but the stars’ arm-candied, supporting cast of character actors shape and hold together a better lasting picture as with Keith David’s unphased Vietnam veteran, bored with life as it seems during his contentious first impressions with James and Carl, to nudge the garbage-toting friends into action as if he’s spearheading a campaign back in the bush fighting the Vietcong or with the two bickering hit-men who do more damage than damage control with their opposing opinions and tough guy prides. Estevez’s farce is directed modestly well without the visual cues or styles to assist but rather works in alignment with how Estevez shoots most of his directing gigs with perfectly framed scenes and precision panning that join the foreground, background, and characters together all in one harrowing moment, such as with the pallet gun prank that ends in the murder of the politician, and those kinds of scenes speak for themselves without having to be edited down. The by-the-numbers pacing builds the story up until a culminating head from the two simple sanitation workers living out their mundane lives with mundane problems to the classic showdown of being outnumbered with Potterdam and his toxic waste dumping henchmen in hazard gear, and though by-the-numbers, the pacing is fairly comfortable and routine, practically natural, without ever feeling forced with the exception of Leslie Hope’s character uncharacteristically, or maybe we’re just not privy of her personal background, lends to her spur of the moment coquettish behavior with Charlie Sheen’s play-dumb, act-dumb surreptitious act in her apartment alone and then out for a late night drive to a beach with him, again alone. Stranger danger doesn’t apply here in this moment when inviting an unknown into the personal space without the accompany of others to be a safety net and this interaction has a fabricated-feel in moving the story along.
MVD Visual releases “Men at Work” onto Blu-ray in accordance with the distributor’s retro-repository label, the Rewind Collection. Coming in at 46 on the spine, “Men at Work” transfer is pulled straight from the MGM vault and presented with an AVC encoded, high definition, 1080p resolution in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The MGM transfer transposition into an hi-def BD format doesn’t reflect the full effect of a bigger, better resolution. Image details remains quite soft but the end image quality is definitely still a palatable experience with natural, stable color grading and a suitable sheen (not Charlie Sheen) of the California sun and the night lighting that is often snuffed out by stylistic grading or alternative lighting and tint sources for creative measures. The transfer master remains clear and free of damage and withering wear. The English language LPCM 2.0 stereo projects just that, a two-channel output with a lower bit, and while perhaps not a science-fiction blaster-thon picture, there’s plenty of range opportunity to warrant a hearty audio mix, but the, like the picture quality, the result is negligibly free from imperfections. Dialogue contains no hissing and is clean, clear, and free from any other issues. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are available. Special features has only the theatrical trailer going for it while the physical release bears the bonus material with a reversible, illustrated cover art, a mini poster of the original poster art, and the clear Blu-ray snapper is sheathed in an O-card slipcase doctored up to be retro-stickered with video rental trappings. The PG-13 film has a runtime of 98 minutes and the release is region A locked. One of the first buddy comedies to come out of the early 90s, “Men at Work” has an audience relatable rapport with the film’s stars absorbed into struggling, yet free-spirited blue-collar roles that are unwittingly forced to take on the big, bad evil industry and though the film may have lost its comedy edge, “Men at Work” still manages to be a repeatable watched classic.