Sunday, May 30, 2010

Top of the World (1998)

Tagline: There is only one problem with being on top of the world... there's only room for one.

Back of DVD: Taking a gamble on life can be a die hard experience!

Ex-cop, Ray Mercer (Peter Weller from Robocop) has just been released from the state penitentiary and no sooner is he free, than he's back in trouble again. But it's not all his fault - his soon-to-be-ex-wife works at a Las Vegas casino run by powerful businessman, Steve Atlas (Dennis Hopper from Speed) and when they stop there to take care of some business, they find themselves caught in the middle of a deadly scheme to rob the casino.

Nothing can stop this deadly operation, except an ex-cop with a knack of finding trouble. With more than a hint of Die Hard in Vegas, TOP OF THE WORLD also stars Tia Carrere (from True Lies), David Alan Grier (from Jumanji) and Joe Pantoliano (from U.S. Marshals). Watch this film if you enjoy an action packed roller coaster ride.

Movie Review:

Well, shit. Dennis Hopper died today after a long battle with cancer. I wasn't planning on reviewing this movie soon as I don't want this to become a Peter Weller blog (though that would be pretty cool) but it did seem fitting that while news sites and other blogs will talk about Easy Rider, Speed and maybe even Waterworld today in their obituaries, that I would take a look at a Dennis Hopper movie that would be overlooked; a little made-for-tv movie Top of the World. This was another movie recommended to me by Matt at the Direct to Video Connoisseur.

The movie starts with the most annoying theme song ever; a radio friendly 80's-style country song with the same name as the movie. It just kept going and going! And it didn't help that the camera panning around the city views was moving so slow I was already starting to grit my teeth. It went for like five minutes, and the damn song shows up at scene changes throughout the movie as well.

Thankfully that is the only bad part of the movie. This is pure b-grade gold. The first scene is Dennis Hopper, a Vegas casino owner, in his office dealing with a gambler at gunpoint who can't pay his debts. Hopper and his associate remain cool-headed throughout the whole dealing and explain to the poor bankrupt guy that "the casino will keep coming after you. They will sell your wife's wedding ring, they will take your organs until the numbers balance", all the while smoking a cigar. Ultimately the poor guy is convinced that doing himself in will allow his wife to claim his life insurance. That's the kind of cold hearted Hopper we deal with in this movie.

Cut to Tia Carrere speeding along to the Nevada prison where Peter Weller has just been released after four years. She wants to end their marriage 'face to face' and thus drives to Vegas for a quick divorce. Weller is less than pleased but has the attitude of "I just want to go home and have a beer" so goes along with it. They end up in Vegas when Carrere goes into the casino to get some cash. At the same time a truck full of guys rocks up to the back entrance and convince their way inside, with weapons mainly, also with the intention of getting some cash; just not by the usual way. It's pretty apparent something bad is going down, and now Weller and Carrere are in the middle of it. Did I mention that Carerre is involved with Hopper? Well, she is.

Weller has some fantastic lines in this movie. "Honey where I've just been, you get in trouble for staring", "Why don't you take that pistol and put it where you can really have fun?". Weller wins the jackpot on a fruit machine and gets to meet the boss Hopper to claim his cheque. Can you feel the tension? That's Weller and Hopper realising they both have Carerre in common.

The crooks in this movie don't mess around either. They have an arsenal of guns and take out anyone that gets remotely in the way of them robbing the casino. This is great for us the viewers as we get a bunch of car chases (one with Weller clinging onto the roof of the getaway truck giving us a monologue of his day so far) and a hell of a lot of explosions. The lead baddie is a good manic, and also seems to be in love with one of the other baddies; a nice touch there.

I should mention more on Dennis Hopper's character casino owner Steve Atlas. This is the perfect role for him and the kind of Hopper roles I enjoy the most. Cold and methodical just like the madman Howard Payne from Speed. He even manages to implicate Weller in the robbery, that's how bad this guy is. He plays off well with Weller in the love-triangle/robbery combo. When he 'catches' Weller he pulls out the "Do you have any idea who I am?" line, to which Weller retorts "Yeah, the Jesus Christ of Craps". Love it. But Hopper isn't the top dog in this flick though. He answers to mob boss Vince "I.. WANT.. MY... MONEY!" Castor played by Joe Pantoliano, who has a hilarious chase scene on a roller coaster.

This is a fantastic bad-action movie that definitely lives up to its ideals of being Die Hard in a casino. Great lines, great action, great Weller and Hopper, and Carrere is nice to look at as always. If you are having a Dennis Hopper retrospective tonight then skip past True Romance and Apocalypse Now. Take a gamble (pun fully intended) on Top of the World.

The DVD: I reviewed the R4 dvd by Hollywood DVD, a cheap label putting out made-for-tv movies. It was presented in OAR 4:3 fullscreen. The transfer was generally quite dark and grainy and the colours not very well defined but still absolutely watchable. The audio was clear and served its purpose. Runtime 94 minutes.

Sourced from: eBay for AU$8.00


More screens:


  1. Great review. I loved this as well, and am very saddened by Hopper's passing. He will be missed.

  2. Thanks for the comments Matt. It was a lot of fun this one, I'll enjoy rewatching this in the future. Be sure to check out my latest review, it's a corker.