In "The Fifth Element," Chris Tucker provided manic comic relief to Bruce Willis' grousing space-age cabbie, and for a while his presence was welcome. Tucker's darting eyes, hyperactive movements and that voice that sounds like he was fed a steady diet of helium as a child was pretty funny. For about 20 minutes.

But as it became apparent that he was not going to be departing anytime soon, his mannered comic style gradually became annoying. By the end of the film, the audience began to root for his character to be killed off.

Tucker, like Jim Carrey at his highest pitch, is very funny in short doses. Some of his comic riffs can be rather inspired. But like the child that doesn't know when to quit, he can easily wear out his welcome.

Such is the case with Tucker's first starring role, in "Money Talks."

Worse, he's paired with Charlie Sheen, whose surly demeanor also gets old after a time.

As a result, "Money Talks" is sort of "Nothing to Lose" dumbed down . . . if that's possible.

Tucker plays a lowlife con artist whose main business is ticket scalping. Sheen is a Los Angeles TV newsman who arranges for Tucker's arrest, just to get a sensational story.

But while Tucker is being transported to jail, he is handcuffed to a ruthless diamond thief whose cohorts arrange for a daring escape — one that results in the deaths of a couple of policemen. Tucker escapes, finds himself accused of killing the cops and decides to steal the mobster's diamonds and just disappear.

As a result, Tucker finds himself on the lam from both police and mobsters. So he calls Sheen for help . . . and soon, they're both wanted for murder. Things are further complicated by Sheen's impending marriage to heiress Heather Locklear within a couple of days.

"Money Talks" might be more amusing if Tucker and Sheen had any chemistry together. They don't. And their name-calling shtick while trying to outrun the usual quota of fireballs and car crashes is not the least bit witty.

Oddly, Tucker works better with Paul Sorvino, as Sheen's wealthy future father-in-law. They have a surprisingly warm rapport, with Sorvino seeming genuinely amused and bemused by Tucker's shenanigans, and his claims to be the son of Vic Damone and Diahann Carroll (shades of "Six Degrees of Separation," in which Will Smith claims to be the son of Sidney Poitier).

Most distressing, however, is the level of violence here, as music video director Brett Ratner and screenwriters Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow ("Toy Story") pile up the bodies of policemen (who are portrayed as trigger-happy jerks) and innocent bystanders, for no apparent reason.

They may have been inspired by Eddie Murphy's twin hits "48HRS." and "Beverly Hills Cop," which also juxtaposed wacky comedy with gruesome, bloody killings. But it's a rare filmmaker that can make such jarring transitions work.

"Money Talks" is rated R for considerable violence, some gore, constant profanity and vulgar language and some partial nudity.