Written and directed by Sam Akina and supposedly made for about fifty grand, this 16mm low budget action film probably won't appeal to those not already into low budget action films to begin with, but for those with a pre-existing affinity for the genre, it's worth a look.
The storyline introduces us to a quirky cast of characters starting with a man named Hector Gonzales (Jerry Lloyd) criminal kingpin who has worked his way up through the underworld over the years to the point where he's now more or less in charge of an entire city's worth of criminal operations. Uncle Bill Nguyen (Toan Le) is a Vietnamese mobster operating in the same area. Then there's Abe Shanks (Phil Randoy), a man who makes his living selling organs on the black market, and Johnny Tran (Thi Nguyen), one of Nguyen's most overzealous foot soldiers. Throw in an Italian mobster named Tommy Two Toes (Dex Manley), a mercenary named Lenny The Butcher (Kori Just), a Columbian drug lord named Pablo Valdez (Rodrigo DeMedeiros) and a corrupt vice cop named Donny Edwards (Roy Stanton) to round out the cast of characters... less one - an ex-con named Cash (Thom Doty) who is Hell-bent on finding the man who murdered and defiled his wife ten years prior - who just so happens to be Gonzales.
With all the characters introduced, we meet them just as the city is about to explode in a violent crime war that puts all of these characters into one another's paths with Cash playing the man in the middle.
Obviously influenced by early Tarantino films, Akina's movie, originally titled Bullets, Blood & A Fistful Of Ca$h (which is a much cooler name, even if it is a bit long) features a whole lot of quirky for quirk's sake tough talking and screwy, eccentric characters that wouldn't feel out of place in Reservoir Dogs. That said, Akina's movie doesn't so much rip off Taratino's early films (most of which weren't exactly innocent in that department themselves, if you've seen City On Fire you'll know exactly what I mean) as it does play in a similar world. That said, Akina isn't as lucky in the casting department as a young Tarantino was. While there are a few fun performances here, much of the cast don't quite fit right. Sometimes things have that inexplicably off feeling, where the actors don't really seem all that into it or have the right sort of gusto summoned up at just the right time. Thankfully the film's lead, Thom Doty, doesn't suffer from any of those afflictions and manages to almost single-handedly save the picture in many ways. The guy is a behemoth, crashing his way through the city on his quest for vengeance and looking all the world like a man you really don't want to mess with.
The special effects aren't always top notch but for a lower budgeted picture they fare pretty well. There's a lot of blood splatter during the more violent films, most of which looks fairly convincing, and a few moments of fairly hard violence that's sure to make you wince. The story has plenty of twists, some of which work better than others, and mixes up clichés and stereotypes with liberal doses of surprise resulting in a picture that feels a bit familiar but which is interesting enough to keep your attention. There's very definitely a dark sense of humor at play throughout much of the movie as well, and this helps things quite a bit. Just as you start doubting how much of the film you'll be able to take seriously, along comes a moment ensuring that as dark as things get, you don't really have to.
Despite the plot holes, despite the uneven acting from much of the cast and despite the overly talky sequences that sometimes harm the pacing, Ca$h is a spiritedly violent picture with a strong lead performance and some memorable moments. It may not be a new indy classic but it's a picture that's worth your time.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer has been bugged 'for promotional purposes only' and so obviously doesn't represent final product. As such, no grade is being assigned to it. As to how it looks, well, aside from that fact that it's interlaced it's not horrible. There are some scenes where the colors look bleached out but this looks to have been done intentionally. The same thing goes for the grain present in the movie, it looks like it's supposed to be there. Detail is reasonably good and there isn't much in the way of actual print damage to note. It's all perfectly watchable, even if it isn't what anyone would probably consider perfect.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is fine, with some nice channel separation present during the action scenes. Dialogue is well balanced and there are no problems to note with hiss or distortion. Bass response could have been better, but it could have been worse as well. All in all, this is a perfectly acceptable
The test disc has a static menu marked 'for promotional purposes only' on it that lets you 'PLAY' or watch the film's trailer. There is no chapter selection and no other features have been supplied on this release.
Ca$h is entertaining enough in a goofy B-movie kind of what and despite its many and often times painfully obvious flaws, fans of low budget action films should have a good time with it as long as they keep their expectations in check. As far as the disc goes, what was sent to review is obviously not what'll be on shelves come release day, which makes it pretty damn near impossible to give this much of a recommendation. So, rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.