Hard Cash (2002 movie) review…

Hard Cash (2002 movie) review after the break…

Hard Cash (2002 movie) review…

Lower budget movies have an inherit difficulty – Where do you place your money? The script? The director? The cast? Crew? Setting? Props? Equipment?

It is often said that the best art emerges from compromise, when the creative are forced to work without and must make do with what they have. Deprivation has certainly created some memorable screen roles – With George Lucas deprived of his first choice of Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford becomes the iconic Indiana Jones – How many “first choices” have turned out to be misfires? And how much can a budget be cut before even a competent script turns unwieldy? Could “Star Wars” have been made on a meager budget and still have been a success? “Avatar”? “Lord of the Rings”?

“Hard Cash” (also known as “Run for the Money”) is a 2002 movie starring Christian Slater as a con man struggling to go honest after a brief stay in prison over a heist gone wrong. When another seemingly successful heist also goes wrong, Slater finds himself at the mercy of a corrupt FBI agent played by a pre-calorically enhanced Val Kilmer who forces him to undertake (wait for it)… “One last heist” before Slater can have what he wants – A clean slate with his daughter so that he can finally be rid of his thieving past.

Against the backdrop of being forced to perform one final heist is the simmering cauldron of Slater’s current crew, each of which has their own agenda. Not having received the cash from their previous heist, each are overly eager to get their hands on this larger bounty and ensure that they do not share it with the others.

Finally, a member of Slater’s former crew, now a successful money launderer and severed hand enthusiast, is looking to take his cut (in more ways then one) from Slater for an earlier botched job.

“Hard Cash” is a movie chock full of B-list actors but with a script that gives some of them little to do. Daryl Hannah is wasted in a role that may as well have been filled with an anonymous actress. Was William Forsythe really needed in a few throwaway scenes?

My largest concern with a B-movie is always the look of the film – Is the script larger then the budget? Most often, the answer to that question is “Yes” and this movie is no exception. A betting parlor looks positively threadbare. A car chase scene looks cheap even by 1970s standards. The “final heist” consists of a payloader pushing a security truck into the ocean and… That’s it.

The script also has too many wheels turning at too many speeds. A throwaway character that pops up in the beginning of the film needlessly emerges at the end in an effort to wrap up a final story arc. There’s a romantic triangle that’s never adequately established or established how one of them knows about the other two. Did the main character really need to have the motivation of his daughter (who, as usual, is portrayed far older then her age) to become honest in his profession? And what of Slater’s girlfriend – Did she really need to be a “Is she trustworthy or not” character?

One plot hole that undermines any effectiveness that this movie has is why Val Kilmer’s partner suddenly takes an interest in Kilmer’s illegal scheme? Wasn’t this character just scenes ago being annoyed at Kilmer’s antics?

“Hard Cash” attempts a few nice moves – Slater’s character uses a tactic in an earlier heist in an attempt to find his daughter once she is kidnapped. This “cat-and-mouse” game between Slater and Kilmer might’ve been effective had it been able to be developed past a mere few scenes. Also, the final heist sequence is so threadbare as to be anticlimactic – Why not show Slater planning something more elaborate with a few “red herrings” thrown in to keep Kilmer and everyone else guessing?

“Hard Cash” is a hard movie to enjoy because, like so many other B-movies, it stretches itself too thin. Too many characters, too many story arcs and not enough script or funding to adequately see that vision through. What might’ve been a more effective script would’ve been a deeper examination of Slater’s crew when the second heist goes wrong and all the after effects that go along with it. Does a girlfriend remain loyal now that her boyfriend only gets 30% of what they were expecting? Was she loyal to begin with? Does the love triangle break up? Does another person sell them out?

“Hard Cash” is an example of ambition trumping resources, of “Star Wars” being made on a $5,000 dollar budget or a blockbuster movie replacing it’s A-list cast with community dinner theater actors. At some point, you can’t keep downgrading a production without similarly downgrading it’s artistic potential. Film students ought to watch “Hard Cash” as a lesson on what happens when you try doing too much with too little.


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