A lighthearted crime drama about drug smuggling that takes place in Mexico, Hawaii, and the waters in between, Acapulco Gold is contrived, episodic, and silly, with more than a few moments that defy logic. In short, it’s a bad movie, and no subsequent praise should dispel that impression. However, there’s a certain easygoing energy to the piece thanks to spunky performances and to flourishes that, in a different cinematic context, would be referred to as “whimsical.” While viewers seeking a movie that’s credible or substantial should look elsewhere, those up for 105 minutes of bargain-basement escapism will find Acapulco Gold periodically diverting.
The singularly atrocious Marjoe Gortner stars as Ralph, an insurance salesman who gets into a hassle while vacationing in Mexico. A nun asks him to hold a piñata, and then cops descend on Ralph because the piñata is full of drugs. He’s imprisoned for holding someone else’s stash, and no one believes he’s innocent. While behind bars, Ralph meets a drunken American sailor named Carl (Robert Lansing), and they become friends. Later, when a wealthy criminal named Morgan (John Harkins) hires Carl to sail Morgan’s boat from Mexico to Hawaii, Carl springs Ralph from jail and hires Ralph as his first mate. Concurrently, several federal agents from the mainland converge on Hawaii because of word about a big impending drug deal. Throw in a beautiful young woman named Sally (Randi Oakes), currently enmeshed with Morgan but open to Ralph’s advances, and you’ve got the set-up for an adventure of sorts.
Part of what makes Acapulco Gold a hoot to watch is that many scenes transpire without anything actually happening. A good one-tenth of the movie comprises aimless vignettes in which Gortner’s and Lansing’s characters simply hang out in bars or on the deck of Morgan’s boat. Lansing is surprisingly engaging in these scenes, all cynicism and sarcasm, whereas Gortner contributes only his signature vapidity. Among the supporting players, Ed Nelson gives a fun turn as a swaggering D.E.A. agent, Harkins lends snobbish corpulence, and Oakes provides sun-kissed eye candy. There’s also a long helicopter flight past scenic locations in Hawaii, an explosion, and a runaway golf cart. It’s all quite random, but every so often, something colorful happens.
Acapulco Gold: FUNKY