All that a cast filled with music personalities adds to the dull, trashy money-laundering melodrama “For the Love of Money” is the occasional pause for a song. And the last thing this movie should do is pause.
It’s just as well that so much of the acting is handled by non-actors, as it’d be a shame to burn through the Screen Actors’ Guild’s finest trying to wring something out of this sloppy, cliche-ridden script.
Keri Hilson of “Think Like a Man” and “Almost Christmas” moves from singer and bit-player to leading lady as Gigi, a single mom trying to keep her Atlanta house, her daughter in private school and herself stylishly dressed on two part time job salaries.
Well, we’re told she works in a gym where we see her working out, but that side-hustle is forgotten by the second or third scene. A lot of characters, background details and story threads get lost in this shuffle-the-deck screenplay, or Leslie Small’s direction of it.
Gigi’s main gig is waiting on well-heeled customers at the tony Symphoni Champagne Bar run by Chris (Keith Sweat). As great as the tips are, that’s not enough to cover tuition for aspiring singer-songwriter teen daughter Ashley (Jazzy Jade) at her private academy.
Ex husband Greg (Jason Mitchell) refuses to ante up more, and gives her an odd directive when it comes to supporting their daughter.
“It’s time for you to decide, are you gonna be a boss-ass b—c or a beggin’-ass b—h?”
As we’ve just seen Mom help Ashley compose a love song for Jesus that she’s performed in church, we are shocked SHOCKED at the vulgarity of the man, who implies his ex knows something of “the street.”
Not sure what he means by that. But mortal men’s eyes pop out of their heads at the gym, on the street and in the bar at the mere sight of Gigi in cleavage and stilettos. So, maybe…
Little Angel Ashley gets in a brawl with a bully after a school basketball game. The other girl winds up “in a coma” and Ashley is badly manhandled by a cop who lets “your black a–” slip as he’s cuffing, roughing up and arresting her.
Add legal bills to the bottom line Gigi isn’t able to cover. Maybe it’s about time to take up the flirty co-workers at the bar (D.C. Young Fly, Cedric Pendleton) on some sort of standing-offer she has to join their side-hustle, moving drug money hither and yon.
At this point, feel free to put down the popcorn, rest your head in your hands and wrack your brain for memories of that “standing-offer.” Because Gigi somehow has a master plan for “fixing” their money laundering for handsy-pushy dealer Trey (Rotimi) all worked out, and they let her implement it and all but take over.
I didn’t hear the offer. But then, I was trying to figure out how the darling little church singer nearly beats another child to death and A) doesn’t get expelled from that private school and B) somehow gets a plea deal that spares her jail because of the cop’s racist over-zealousness.
No, “SHE started it!” never holds up in court.
“For the Love of Money” has a lot of lapses like that — story threads and characters forgotten, details skipped-over because nobody gave them any thought.
What the film is really about is giving Hilson a showcase for her curves and voice, and the audience a ridiculous taste of “wish fulfillment fantasy” as Gigi negotiates a stupidly lucrative deal with a potentially violent drug dealer that allows her to buy a Jag, and the champagne bar.
But before handing Symphoni over, Chris and Gigi do a little duet for the paying customers.
There’s also a nothing-to-the-imagination sex number by Latto, and a couple of musical trips to church, for those who their movies to give them whiplash.
The soundtrack is more R-rated than most of what’s on the screen, and all of it, including the half-assed crime and waiting for Gigi’s profligate, criminal “boss-ass b—h” behavior to catch up with her is pure trash.
Add to that actors who don’t know how to show desperation, rage, greed, lust or much of anything else, and a story that moves so slowly you notice every flaw –thanks, director Smalls (“Hair Show”) — and you’ve got yourself a dud.
I was grateful for a cameo by comic Katt Williams, playing Gigi’s corrupt, money-laundering pastor with a poker-faced stillness and seriously silly fey voice. Give that man top billing, as he’s the only person on the payroll who seems to know what he’s doing, and why.
Rating: R for language, some sexual content/nudity and violence
Cast: Keri Hilson, Rotimi, D.C. Young Fly, Jazzy Jade, Jason Mitchell, Latto, Keith Sweat and Katt Williams
Credits: Directed by Leslie Small, scripted by Timothy Allen Smith, Zadia Ife and Leslie Small. A Freestyle release.
Running time: 1:38