Money's Money

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/28/17 23:19:42

"This sort of easy-money job is never as easy as it looks."
3 stars (Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: As much as I suspected going in that this would be a fairly grimy, no-nonsense crime movie, I wasn't necessarily prepared for how little it sends to have going on aside from getting things into position and then getting people killed. That sort of seeming nihilism can be as much feature as bug - a lot of crime stories are about how the big score can seem like the only solution - although it's not necessarily a point that the filmmakers seem to be trying to make here.

It takes place in the port city of Le Havre, the sort of place where people carpool because everybody who has been living in the same run-down neighborhood for generations has also been working the same sweaty job. Take, for instance, Danis (George Babluani), his friend Eric (Vincent Rottiers), and Eric's sister Alexandra (Charlotte Van Bervesseles); it's not much of a living, but it's the one they've got, although maybe that can change; Alex has learned that M. Mercier (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), the local Secretary of State for Public Safety, keeps a lot of cash on hand, relatively unguarded; it should be pretty easy to steal. It would certainly be enough for Danis to pay off his gambling debts (or not) and start over somewhere else with his daughter. It is seldom that easy, though - Mercier keeps a lot of cash in the house because the mob uses him as a conduit, blackmailing him over the matter of a dead escort. The trio are about to walk into a more dangerous situation than they expected.

It's a simple crime thriller, and as a result of that simplicity it sometimes feels oddly small, returning to the same spot in ways that don't necessarily feel natural or otherwise feeling a bit under-populated. When filmmaker Géla Babluani is setting things up, this doesn't feel like much of a problem; there's an old noir tradition of focusing on the people that work in the infrastructure of a place, getting things from here to there but not paid enough to have any sort of mobility themselves, in large part because they're bled by both the big shots above and the bookies or crooks at their own level. Babluani does the feeling of the film a service by establishing these characters' world as so small that their neighborhood feels like a single street, and it's notable that even the attempt to escape it takes place on a train; it's another space too narrow for someone to escape his past that offers only limited options.

The cast does a good job of creating these working-class anti-heroes; George Babluani has an undercurrent of desperation to Danies's recklessness, with both coming out best in scenes with Anouk Grinberg as his mother, who has maybe not seen this before, but has certainly seen Danis make dumb decisions. There's initially a less weighty air to how Vincent Rottiers and Charlotte Van Bervesseles play Eric and Alexandra; a bit younger and less worn-down from responsibility, the siblings don't really know what they're getting into until one of the two is threatened directly. Louis-Do de Lencquesaing and Benoît Magimel, then, make good opposition for them; while Magimel has a smug air as the enforcer sent to keep everybody else in check that immediately makes any normal person thrown up against him an underdog, de Lencquesaing's Mercier is easy enough for everyone from Danis to the mob to the audience to hate: Arrogant despite what is likely little accomplishment of his own, he's a refined upper-class accent on top of an explosive temper, and de Lencquesaing is pretty fair at playing Mercier as a clear monster while still leaving himself and Géla Babluani some room to build to full-on scenery chewing.

Babluani and the cast do manage some impressively clever and creative moments as it sets up the situation for the anti-heroes to wiggle out of, often managing some very nice tension as he delays the actual quality violence, at least within a scene. On the larger scale, one might get to the point of wondering what the filmmakers are trying to accomplish. Even at 90 minutes, there just isn't enough story to keep things from feeling stretched or the chance to sink into the setting. There's also a certain emptiness to its violence by the end, with the film reaching a point where further murder doesn't increase the tragedy or danger of the situation.

It's not quite enough to make "Money's Money" (or just "Money", depending on the territory) a bad movie, and it's got a couple of quality sequences. It's a thriller that lacks a hook of its own, and doing something well isn't the same as surprising the audience at some point.

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