What's the modern, tofu-eating, p-whipped male to do when he comes across a suitcase full of stolen cash only to have an old-fashioned, meat-loving, virile bad guy show up to reclaim it? That is the dilemma faced by the young man at the center of Ca$h, a pathetic thriller and lame social satire that suffers from abysmal writing, poor pacing and terrible acting, even from the normally reliable Sean Bean. The trajectory of this Roadside Attractions release is clear: a limited theatrical release followed by quick DVD oblivion, which is frankly a better fate than this time waster deserves.
The trouble starts for Sam Phelan (Chris Hemsworth) and his wife Leslie (Victoria Profeta) when a valise bounces off the hood of Sam's ancient Buick station wagon as he drives down a Chicago street. Months behind on their mortgage and facing foreclosure, the couple never hesitates as they pay off their debt and go on a spending spree. More than half a million dollars remain when smooth-talking, Brit psychopath Pyke Kubic (Bean) appears to take back his identical twin brother Reese's loot, which is just fine with the jailed Reese. But Pyke has a head for figures and a skewed sense of justice. Reese ripped off that money; it is his and now also Pyke's. He expects it all back right down to the penny or else there will be hell to pay.
The thriller aspect is so beyond sense that the plot inconsistencies and contrivances form a kind of black hole sucking all life out of the movie, but then writer/director Stephen Milburn Anderson is less interested in telling a compelling, coherent story than he is in making a point. Eighteen years ago, he burst onto the film scene with South Central, in which a gangbanger mends his ways to become a better father to his son. Two decades and two films later (1997's Dead Men Can't Dance went straight to video), Anderson is still fascinated by what makes a man.
There is no subtlety to speak of in Ca$h as Anderson pits the hapless Sam against the capable Pyke. Pyke might be an obvious nut job but he gets things done. Poor Sam. Completely dominated by Leslie, not only does he eat tofu, he cooks it. When this evil invades their home, Leslie looks to Sam to save them but he can only stare back helplessly, never acting out even when it is clear that Pyke and the danger he represents is beginning to turn on his spouse. The increasingly ludicrous drama at this point is less about crime and the threat to this couple's lives than it is about a guy's duty to man up. Or at least eat a hamburger.
Anderson has made a big deal of the fact that Ca$h was shot digitally, its sound recorded digitally, it is being marketed over the Internet and distributed to theaters digitally. He obviously spent a lot of time catching up with the latest technology. Too bad, he does not seem to have given as much thought to his content. The movie is simply dismal.
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Cast: Sean Bean, Chris Hemsworth and Victoria Profeta
Director/Screenwriter: Stephen Milburn Anderson
Producers: Stephen Milburn Anderson and Naveen Chathappuram
Rating: R for language, violence and some sexual content.
Running time: 108 min.
Release Date: March 26 ltd.