No. 46: D.C. Cab


Note: Back to the Movies is a special feature on the FilmNerds blog in which Matt Scalici will be watching the Top 50 highest-grossing movies of 1983 in order from 50 to 1.

As I round out the first five movies of my series, we come to what is without question the first absolute disaster I’ve seen in the 1983 Top 50 and though it cracked the Top 50 in its day, D.C. Cab was most definitely considered a mishandled flop.

Apparently Mr. T, fresh off his breakout appearance in Rocky III, was becoming a bit of an icon among kids and though D.C. Cab is Rated-R (and a hard R at that with ample swearing and one lengthy T&A scene ), Universal decided to market the film with a heavy emphasis on T. His character is most definitely not a major presence in the film – he basically is one of about a dozen minor characters who are all cab drivers with their own subplots that receive probably three scenes each in the movie. Mr. T’s subplot involves Mr. T wanted to make his cab nicer so that kids will see him as the neighborhood hero rather than the local drug dealer who has a much nicer car. This is gritty reality, folks.

The screenplay is so absolutely carelessly thrown together and the film slapped together with such a lack of effort, you’d think it was the first movie any of these people worked on. That’s because it pretty much is. Director Joel Schumacher (yeah, that Joel Schumacher) had only worked on one film prior to this (1981’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman) and co-writer Topper Carew had no previous experience and has only one credit after this on his resume – writing for the show Martin.

The end result of this collaboration of rookies is a nearly unwatchable mess of a film that pulls out just about every trick in the book to try and save itself, including a musical montage, a side plot about two children being kidnapped, an awkward cameo appearance by Irene Cara (“Hey, aren’t you Irene Cara?”) and, I kid you not, a speech about doing the right thing delivered by Mr. T on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

There’s literally only one redeeming quality to the entire film: Gary Busey. This guy is just as out of his mind, bat sh** crazy in 1983 as he is today, and keep in mind that he didn’t have his skull injured in a motorcycle accident until 1988. This is just natural born crazy that we see in D.C. Cab, and in all honesty it is really fun to watch. Busey was clearly a pure ball of chaos from the beginning and what makes his comedic performance legitimately fun in this movie is that it feels real. I highly doubt any of Busey’s lines came from the screenplay or were even rehearsed before they were shot. It’s purely random, unpredictable, absurd nonsense and it does take a special brain to be able to come out with that kind of stuff.

Busey’s performance really only gave me something to hold onto while enduring this atrocious film. It’s fun, but it’s not enough to give you reason to watch this movie. This is the first true stinker of my 1983 journey.