Sheens Can’t Buy A Hit: Jumbled Cadence Fizzles

This article was originally published in The Varsity, page 9, on Mar. 21, 1991.


by Ray Deonandan,
Varsity Staff

Charlie Sheen desperately needs a hit. After immediate stardom from his lead roles in Platoon and Wall Street, he has scrounged about pathetically for another mega-buck blockbuster.

He did okay with the Brat Pack’s Young Guns, and pleased the critics with Eight Men Out. He tried teaming up with brother Emilio Estevez in Men At Work and Wisdom; with a forgettable cast in Major League; with a standard bunch of second-rate tough guys for Navy Seals; and recently with first-rate tough guy Clint Eastwood in The Rookie.

All dismal failures.

But somehow he has never been short of work. With no fewer than twenty major motion pictures to his credit over the last ten years, Charlie somehow manages to get cast by directors for the same role over and over again.

This time the director is his father, which is always a useful thing. Martin Sheen, the perennial living acting legend and professional political activist, has cast his sons Charlie and Ramon and countless other ” friends of the family” in Cadence, a film about — what else? — father and son relationships.

Cadence is actually about a lot of things, none of which is particularly interesting. Charlie plays a son and soldier in the American army (sound familiar?) spending 90 days in the stockade with a group of closely knit black prisoners. Martin plays a father and by-the-books sergeant, another stretch of the imagination.

Claiming to be concerned with loyalty, friendship, family and racism, this film is about none of those things because it tries to be about all of them.

A great opportunity for the investigation of racial tension within the army and within prison systems is abandoned halfway in favour of some confusing references to Charlie having to “choose a team”. The team thing is then put aside for the obligatory father-son interactions. The familial stuff is then scrapped to make room for the expected tirade regarding the evils of military conformity, etc (The movie is set, after all, in the period immediately preceding the U.S.’s entrance into the Vietnam War. Of course.)

This is very much a film owned and operated by the Estevez family. One fully expects Emilio and Renee to come galloping over the horizon, six guns blazing. As it is, Ramon, Charlie and Martin look so much alike that it’s almost easy to forget who is playing who. There’s even a cameo of a black M.P. named Estevez. Cute, but not particularly funny.

Good things to be said of Cadence? It’s not boring, though the excitement level never rises above the adjustment of one’ s spectacles. The scenery is nice, having been filmed at an abandoned American army base in British Columbia. (Indeed, it’s difficult to believe that stockade life could be so traumatic when surroimded by forests, streams and rolling hills) . And the music is agreeable, featuring the angelic strains of Harry Stewart who portrays a singing prisoner with “pipes that will bring Jesus into your heart instantly. ”

Stewart met Martin Sheen in the paddy wagon after the two had been arrested together many times for their anti nuclear protests. More nepotism.

The screenplay is based on Gordon Weaver’s novel Count A Lonely Cadence. And only with that realization does the revelation occur: “Cadence — could it have something to do with, like, marching to a different beat?”

With this one, Charlie Sheen still doesn’t deserve to have another hit.