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Fools, gangsters, and a suitcase filled with money. Now there's a recipe for an exhilarating cinematic adventure, filled with thrills, chills, and the quivering lure of greed. The caper "Ca$h" (the production's spelling, not mine) offers inept cinematography, stiff performances, and Sean Bean using a kitchen sink sprayer to mimic urination. The picture doesn't exactly live up to the sizzling potential of the genre.
Flying to Chicago to check up on his incarcerated twin brother, Pyke (Sean Bean) learns the massive money haul his sibling was in charge of was pitched into traffic, landing on the hood of a rusted station wagon, owned by miserable working stiff, Sam (Chris Hemsworth, "Star Trek"). Now flush with cash, Sam and wife Leslie (Victoria Profeta) go on a spending spree, pulling themselves out of their crippling financial hole. Following the green paper trail, Pyke soon meets up with Sam, forcing him to track down and reclaim every last cent. Trouble arises when full repayment is impossible, leaving Pyke in a most foul and threatening mood.
"Ca$h," despite its delightful No Limit Records title and the presence of a between-haircuts Sean Bean, is one spectacularly clumsy picture. Part thriller, part psychological drama, part comedy, the feature is dreary mess, missing a huge opportunity to hoof it up as a gangbusters crime story. Bean's hilariously overcooked idea of masculinity aside, the picture seems more content puttering around simulating excitement than galloping forward as the thrill ride it so clearly wants to be.
Shot with HD cameras, there's an off-putting amateurish quality to "Ca$h" that keeps matters firmly grounded. The cinematography goes for bold colors and jittery movement, but it's a stagy effort that routinely underscores the overemphatic efforts from the cast, who broadly bemoan the dicey situation. Director Stephen Milburn Anderson doesn't appear to mind the hollow quality of his picture, with scene after scene inflated with excessive hysterics. Between Bean's sleepy monologuing and the rest of the cast wildly gesticulating every syllable, it's impossible to embrace the supposed tension at hand.
And the film's sense of humor? Actor Glenn Plummer plays a character named "Glenn the Plumber." Yeesh.
The crux of the film lies in Pyke's pressure tactics, spending a majority of the film shoving the couple into moneymaking opportunities that range from mortgage refinancing to armed robbery. Of course, this opens the picture up to a terrifying range of commonsense possibilities, but Anderson likes to keep matters in the movie realm, with Sam and Leslie barely making an effort to outwit Pyke, despite ample opportunity to wiggle free or simply explain themselves. Pyke's reign over the couple doesn't make much sense, skipping further into fantasyland when the hostage situation takes on a light sexual element, making "Ca$h" not only riddled with illogic, but slightly icky as well.
The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation is a difficult situation since, as previously mentioned, "Ca$h" was shot on HD cameras, creating a smeary sensation during heavy movement and low-light sequences. The DVD does what it can in terms of robust colors (exteriors do look superb), and black levels are surprisingly strong. Skintones are a touch too drained and colorless, but the overall life of the film looks preserved to a comfortable degree. The visual limitations seem tied to the cinematography.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix keeps the action moving along, with startling directional life accompanying the chase sequences and more heated moments of violence. Dialogue is a bit muddled due to accents, but nothing is ever truly lost, nicely balanced with scoring cues and soundtrack cuts. Low-end activity is minimal, with the track preferring a more tinny blast of suspense and anger. A 2.0 mix is also available.
English and Spanish subtitles.
The feature-length audio commentary from director Stephen Milburn Anderson is actually quite unexpected, with the filmmaker jumping right into the discussion, barreling into his inspiration for the story, thematic goals, and the moral questions he posed in the script. Anderson is a bit of a raconteur, going off on several baffling tangents before returning to the core filmmaking accomplishments of the film. A few dead spots here and there, but Anderson doesn't stay quiet for long, coming to the commentary experience prepared to explain himself and his movie. And if you end up a little offended by the film's racism? Anderson thinks you're "wrong." He's quite a character.
"Deleted/Extended Scenes" (9:46) isolates a few more moments of tension (sexual and violent) between Pyke and Leslie, solidifies the death of Sam's hopes for a life in the fast food business, and provides a few more beats of criminal intimidation to tighten the noose.
"The Making of 'Ca$h'" (12:43) corrals cast and crew interviews (conducted on-set) looking to articulate the moral ambiguity of the plot and how they came to the production. The sound and video quality is on the unpolished side, but the BTS footage is interesting, showing the production in motion. There's also some discussion of the film's South Asian ties, which helped with distribution and business dealings.
And a Theatrical Trailer is included.
The intention of "Ca$h" is to get Sam and Leslie to a point of desperation, where the idea of robbing a bank to pay off the debt is a natural progression of frayed character. The film never earns this frantic escalation, instead sustaining a fatigued sense of scripted duty that keeps "Ca$h" on a steady pace of inconsequence from start to finish.