Reviews

In 'Ca$h', Money Changes People and Power Corrupts -- Nothing New Under the Sun

A suitcase full of illicit cash tempts, and ultimately corrupts, a nice, normal couple.


Ca$h

Director: Stephen Milburn Anderson
Cast: Sean Bean, Chris Hemsworth, Victoria Profeta
Distributor: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Release Date: 2010-08-17

Just because you market a movie as a twisting, intricate thriller, doesn’t make it so. Ca$h has exactly these conceits, but instead of being a taut, philosophical crime picture, like it pretends to be, it is mired in predictable mediocrity. It wants to be a deep, insightful look at exactly how far normal, everyday citizens will go in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, but doesn’t end up examining anything.

Sam Phelan (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) just won the lottery, in a manner of speaking. A briefcase full of money fell from the sky, literally, and landed on the hood of his beat up Buick station wagon, right in the middle of downtown Chicago. That’s the American dream right there, even better than the actual lottery because you don’t have to pay taxes on money that came from heaven.

He has brief discussion with his wife Leslie (Victoria Profeta, Push), and despite the fact that they are a law-abiding couple, they decide to keep the cash. They are behind on their mortgage, the bank is about to foreclose on them, and they work menial, degrading jobs, so obviously the divine hand of fate wanted them to have this money. After they buy a new Range Rover and a living room set, they plan to invest in a fried chicken franchise.

Complications arise when Pyke Kubic (Sean Bean, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) arrives on the scene. His twin brother is the one who originally stole the money from a dog track, but threw it out of the window of his getaway van before being apprehended by the police. This means that there are multiple scenes where Sean Bean talks to himself from opposite side of the prison bars. Pyke easily tracks down the Phelans, shows up to claim the money, and kidnaps them, forcing them through a series of illicit errands in order to recoup the money they spent.

Sam and Victoria are sympathetic enough as the flawed, but average couple driven to extremes in order to return the sanity of their normal lives. Pyke compels them into acts they would never otherwise consider, like robbing a string of liquor stores. Because they are powerless in their own lives, subjected to the whims of lenders and bosses, they find the power of pointing a gun at someone and commanding them intoxicating. Breaking the law and taking what they want is so foreign that it provides an uncomfortable thrill. They don’t want to like what they’re doing, and keep telling themselves that they have no choice, but a part of them relishes existing outside of the rules and exerting their will on the world at large.

The main flaw is that Ca$h offers nothing you haven’t seen before, and you are always one step ahead of the plot. You know exactly what's going to happen next. Pyke is an interesting character, he is a gentleman who has a calmness and courtesy that balance his potential for violence, but you never gain any more insight into him than he is driven to recover every single cent he feels that he is owed. Victoria and Sam are stereotypical good people, tempted and ultimately stained by money and greed. Their fall is an easy transition, they don’t put up any sort of resistance as Pyke drags them into a life of crime.

Writer/director Stephen Milburn Anderson (South Central) apparently wrote the script in the '90s, but sat on it until he could make it his way, without interference by the Hollywood machine. He'ss an engaging personality on his own, and talks extensively about his views on the film in a commentary track, and some more in a brief making of documentary. A collection of deleted and extended (mostly extended) scenes rounds out the bonus features. Fans of Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol should keep a keen eye out in the cut scenes for an appearance by Tim Kazurinsky, better known as Officer Sweetchuck.

An exploration of the corrupting power of money is certainly fertile ground, but it's also well-trod territory. While Ca$h features a few interesting quirks, it doesn’t bring anything new to the subject.

5
Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

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(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

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