Out west, alone in a cabin, Maw (Ruth Buzzi) wishes her sons, Travis (Terence Hill) and Moses (Bud Spencer), could settle their differences and come home for Christmas. Both men happen to be bounty hunters. While wily Travis is the fastest gun in the west, superhumanly strong Moses bashes outlaws with his bare fists. Realising Moses needs money to support his kindly wife Janie (Radha Delamarter) and enormous family of ten kids, Travis deliberately frees notorious outlaw Sam Stone (Boots Southerland) from the hangman's noose so they can retrieve him for a substantial reward. Of course nothing goes to plan. For one thing Travis gets distracted helping pretty veterinarian sisters Bridget (Anne Kasprik) and Melle (Eva Haßmann) evade some unsavoury characters then he and Moses end up framed for bank robbery and on the run from the law. Meanwhile Sam Stone learns Maw has a fortune hidden somewhere on her property and decides to pay her a visit.
After a nine year gap following Bruno Corbucci's pedestrian Miami Supercops (1985) Euro action-comedy icons Terence Hill (real name: Mario Girotti) and Bud Spencer (a.k.a. Carlo Pedersoli) reunited for one final film. Both men enjoyed solo success in the interim and while their films were no longer as high profile in the USA remained a big draw throughout Europe. Troublemakers, also known as The Fight Before Christmas or alternatively The Night Before Christmas, was more or less a variation on their breakthrough comedy western They Call Me Trinity (1970) and was in some territories even billed as another sequel. Having made his directorial debut with The World of Don Camillo (1984), updating another popular European comedy franchise, and brought the first adaptation of popular cowboy comic book Lucky Luke (1991) to the screen, Terence Hill took the reins working with a script penned by his son, Jess Hill who has a nice cameo as a telegraph operator.
Indeed Hill's direction is a big part of what makes this rambling reunion so amiable. He assembles a good looking production with fluid camerawork, punchy editing and expansive western scenery. While the plot is as ramshackle as ever and entirely dependent on silly, often surreal slapstick action Troublemakers remains livelier than the duo's past few vehicles and often charmingly old-fashioned in a manner that anticipates Hill's later, endearingly humanistic western Doc West (2009). Watching Terence and Bud reprise their stock roles as wily rogue with a heart of gold and unstoppable man mountain respectively, one can't help but feel nostalgic as they bumble into one knockabout mess after another. Playing up the Christmas angle, Jess Hill's script ladles on greetings card messages of peace, goodwill and reconciling family differences. Amidst the endless brawling, the film keeps cutting back to American sketch comedy veteran Ruth Buzzi whose intuition about her boys proves borderline psychic. However, the gags are funny (e.g. Bud dogged by a persistent photographer; the boys constantly disrupting the Sheriff's chess game) and a subplot about Bud's brood of cute kids led by the likeable Jonathan Tucker (who unsurprisingly has since enjoyed a long career), tangling with outlaws and poisonous rattlesnakes en route to grandma's house proves surprisingly engaging.
Evidently Terence Hill was quite the fan of Home Alone (1990) given the farcical finale combines cute kids and Christmas sentiment with slapstick sadism. Mind you given this style of comical violence had long been the Italian duo's stock in trade, it plays more like a canny update than a rip-off. Maw's mixed message moralizing proves mind-boggling at best yet the ending manages to be weird, asinine and heartwarming all at once. As fond farewells go Troublemakers is an amiable send-off for the Hill-Spencer team. Happy trails, Terence and Bud.