I take no pleasure, none, in tracking the downward spiral of the Great John Cusack‘s big screen career. Nicolas Cage either.
Katherine Heigl and Steven Seagal? Sure. I mean, I’m human.
But Cusack’s decline to “black baseball cap” roles in a string of C-D grade thrillers is fascinating, nevertheless. You can’t point in any serious way to him being wholly responsible for his own fate. Still, here he is, playing the heavy — a runaway extortionist who purses a trio of trio of river rafters who have gotten their hands on his haul — in “Blood Money.”
“Hey, I LIKE Metallica!”
And I’m betting the leading lady (Willa Fitzgerald of TV’s “Little Women”) was contractually obligated to recite this line.
“Kinda sexy, for an older guy.”
Three high school friends — Fitzgerald, Ellar Coltrane (“Boyhood”) and Jacob Artist — with little in common save for collective sexual history, reunite for a river trip through Deliverance Country, Georgia.
Dude in black bails out of an airplane with black bags full of loot. The rafters find it. And two of them, especially the emotional, shrill, scheming and occasionally ruthless Lynn (Fitzgerald) vow to keep it. A track star nicknamed Cheetah, she once had a thing with stuck-in-his-hometown Victor (Coltrane), and may be having a thing with Jeff (Artist, of TV’s “Quantico”).
“It’s MY money!” she says after finding it. One of the guys is too righteous to take it, one bends to her will. And when the bad guy gets on their trail, a chase begins.
Wikipedia conveniently describes “A melodrama as a dramatic work in which the plot, which is typically sensational and designed to appeal strongly to the emotions, takes precedence over detailed characterization. Characters are often simply drawn, and may appear stereotyped.”
That’s what we have here. The villain isn’t the sharpest at woodlore, isn’t really a killer or a crack shot or anything like that. He seems shocked when somebody gets hurt/killed. The stereotypical sadism of such characters only emerges later.
The chase pauses for characters to work out their issues, or explain themselves. The whole “Treasure of the Sierra Madre/Trespass” of what people, even friends, do to each other when big money is involved is handled perfunctorily.
Structurally, director Lucky McKee (Hah!) chooses to tell this story in flashback so we know the scope of the final conflict. The finale is unsatisfying in the extreme — suggesting nobody here actually watched “Sierra Madre.”
Fitzgerald’s hysteria/mania here adds a little to her “reel,” and Coltrane should probably find a series — like Artist.
And there’s Cusack, the man in (dyed hair) black, there to judge, to improv a one-liner, here and there — “Man, you are a…TERRIBLE person.” “You really LEANED into it, didn’t you?”
I wish he’d get better offers, wish he had the option of turning down crap like this. I wish he’d stop supervising his own wardrobe and stop dying his hair and transition to 50somethings of greater variety.
Not holding my breath, though.
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout including sexual references, and for some violence
Cast: Willa Fitzgerald, Ellar Coltrane, Jacob Artist, John Cusack
Running time: 1:28