A Drug Called Charlie Sheen: Can We Handle It?

OK, so Charlie Sheen is supposedly a warlock with tiger blood and Adonis DNA… and a huge problem. Various media outlets have scandalously bombarded audiences with the popular actor’s recent travails over the past few weeks so much so that, unless one has been living out their days in solitary confinement, or sitting through endless perpetual viewings of Navy SEALs, it’s difficult to get away from. In fact, the coverage of these current events has reached such a point of saturation that for many this “news story” is pretty much over and will live on as nothing more than a curious tidbit of pop culture. However, it’s clear that Mr. Sheen has a dilemma on his hands. Exactly what that trouble is isn’t really for any non-medical-industry professional to say, even though it seems obvious to most that he’s at least suffering mentally. But, the question, at least for film buffs, becomes: Does it really matter?

Regardless of Charlie’s recent struggles, the general consensus remains that he has talent as an actor. Of course, running down the list of his big hits, one could point to Oliver Stone’s Academy Award-winning Vietnam film Platoon, his tense portrayal as an enterprising young stock broker in Wall Street (also from Stone), and even his role as pitching phenom from the California penal leagues, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, in Major League (one of the greatest sports movies ever made, I don’t care what anyone says… Take that, Field Of Dreams) as examples of this thespian talent. However, the list actually goes much deeper, as Sheen has done admirable work in plenty of other solid and underappreciated films.

I first saw Sheen starring alongside Patrick Swayze as his brother in Sheen’s popular (at least in my circles) feature debut, Red Dawn, about a fictional invasion of America. (What!? The late Swayze and Charlie Sheen together in the same movie!? Where can I see this?) From there, he moved on to the stark and violent The Boys Next Door, from director Penelope Spheeris (of Suburbia and Wayne’s World fame), about disenfranchised youth who go on an L.A. killing spree. It’s a bit one-dimensional but still compelling. Next, Sheen became one of Corey Haim’s many champions in the touching teen film, Lucas. Also, who could forget his cameo in the classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“Why are YOU here…?” “Drugs.”)?


After all this came the underrated gem, The Wraith, with Sheen as a mysterious alien crusader who battles outlaw car thieves. Reviled by critics, the film still manages to be fun despite its flaws. Tremendous car scenes—especially those involving Sheen’s “Dodge Turbo Interceptor”—highlight the movie, and a fine supporting cast including Sherilyn Fenn, Nick Cassavetes, Randy Quaid, and the legendary Clint Howard also helps to boost the production. (Also, look quickly for popular model Brooke Burke as a 14-year-old roller skating waitress). Back in the day, my friends and I would actually quote lines and reenact scenes from this unpopular movie, as an inside joke to those around us… Anyway, then came the immensely popular ‘80s-styled western Young Guns, even though Sheen had to take a backseat to his brother, Emilio Estevez (playing Billy The Kid), and star of the moment Lou Diamond Phillips. Also, around this time and a full year before Major League, Sheen played a supporting role in another stellar baseball film, Eight Men Out (from director John Sayles), about the notorious “Black Sox” (actually, the Chicago White Sox) scandal. As center fielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, Sheen mixed it up with fellow teammates David Strathairn (Eddie Cicote), and others, possibly including D.B. Sweeney (“Shoeless” Joe Jackson), conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series. Strong performances all around lend credence to this historical film.

A couple years later in 1991 came the very funny Hot Shots from Jim Abrahams (in the same vein as his Airplane!, The Naked Gun, etc.) that spoofed war films and also spawned a sequel. However, in between those two comedies, Sheen did a very engaging HBO film, Beyond The Law, based on a true story about outlaw biker gangs. The script from Larry Ferguson was inspired by a 1981 article in Playboy magazine titled Undercover Angel by Lawrence Linderman that details the exploits of undercover narcotics officer Dan Black. The film features Sheen as the cop who must infiltrate the gang and become a member of the club in order to take down the criminals. As Sheen becomes engulfed in the biker lifestyle, though, his assignment compromises his character and sanity, and he actually begins to identify more with the outlaws than the police officers. Sheen is admirable in the movie, and both motorcycle clubs and law enforcement have praised it for its realism regarding the biker lifestyle and undercover work. It’s a great watch for anyone interested in bike culture. And, of course, who could forget 1994’s The Chase? Actually, it seems like everyone, because once again, the critics hate it, but it’s still a fun ride, with Sheen playing an escaped con out to clear his name who kidnaps the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Kristy Swanson) in a red BMW. The film even stars one of my heroes, former Black Flag frontman, Henry Rollins as the cop in pursuit of Sheen. So, it’s perfect for me.

Naturally, there are undoubtedly some duds in the rock star from Mars’ filmography. I can honestly say I’ve never heard anyone say, “I loved Charlie in Money Talks!” (Though, in fairness, I must say I’ve never seen that one). However, even when his career took what could be considered a bit of a downturn due to personal problems, Sheen still managed to turn out some decent material.  In 2000, around the time Sheen started on Spin City he also did an intense film for Showtime, Rated X, with his brother Emilio (who also directed) about the true story of the notorious porn-producing pioneers, the Mitchell Brothers. Charlie played Artie Mitchell and Emilio was Jim Mitchell, who despite making millions together with adult films such as Behind the Green Door both descended into addiction and madness that culminated in Jim killing Artie. The screenplay is a very intriguing one, and oddly, the life of Artie Mitchell disturbingly mirrors that of the real Sheen. Maybe that’s why he was drawn to the role in the first place. Funny how life works out like that sometimes, though, let’s hope Charlie doesn’t quite meet the end that Artie did.


OK, from there Mr. Sheen moved on to his TV career, which I must be honest, I’m much less a fan of, but I still think I’ve made my point here… What IS my point? I suppose it’s that it doesn’t really matter what an entertainer’s personal life entails. Their job is to entertain. Therefore it’s often necessary to separate life from art. This is even the case regarding more drastic scenarios such as Mel Gibson and even Victor Salva. It doesn’t make anyone a bad person because they want to view a Gibson or Salva film if they deem it worthy. It doesn’t mean that person approves of the filmmaker’s actions, and they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about simply viewing a film. Anyway, that therefore means one doesn’t need to condone or condemn what Charlie Sheen does in order to enjoy his films. It remains that no matter what Sheen is involved in outside of work he has made a slew of killer films, plenty of which I’ve mentioned previously. My advice? Watch these fun movies and just remember the good times. That way, everyone will surely be… WINNING!!!