Cash Out Review

It’s always a pleasant surprise when you see a big-time, successful actor as the star of a new independent film and–after worrying that they may just be in a it for a few minutes to get the paycheck–they end up the actual star of the show.

Such is the case with the new flick, Cash Out, starring John Travolta. I was concerned we wouldn’t actually get that much of Mr. Travolta, but instead, he turns out to be the lead of the whole production.

Travolta here plays Mason, a big-time master thief who seems to specialize in high-value crimes. The movie opens with him and his partner (in more ways than one), played by Sex And The City’s own Kristin Davis, ripping off a priceless, one-of-a-kind car. As they make their escape, they are quickly set upon by the FBI, at which point, Davis reveals she is a part of the law enforcement agency and has infiltrated Mason’s group.

After Travolta’s team abandons the score and narrowly escapes, we see that Mason has absconded to an island residence. Heartbroken, he has decided to retire from his life of crime. However, his brother, Sean, visits him to propose another big score…

TWO UPS AND TWO DOWNS

+The flirtatious interactions between John Travolta and Kristin Davis are certainly a unique wrinkle to the ages old bank heist movie plot. I can personally say I’ve never seen a bank job flick where the negotiator and the robber flirted their way through the proceedings, so it’s a nice, new touch.

The dealings of the two main leads of Cash Out help let the air out of the bank heist balloon. Bank job movies can be a bit tense and strenuous to watch as you are on the edge of your seat wondering if the protagonists will get away with their ill-begotten gains. But when you have two relatively charismatic leads basically playing verbal footsie while they work their way through the plot, it can stop the plot from ever feeling too heavy or dire.

+The opening fifteen minutes sets up the rest of the movie. It establishes the romantic relationship between Travolta and Davis, sets them up as high-society thieves who have a taste for the finer things in life, and then ends with David revealing she is FBI and has infiltrated Travolta’s team. This opening segment tells you everything you need to know, and it does it with a fairly interesting heist premise and chase by the FBI.

If there’s a down to be found in the opening, it’s that it is a bit silly that Travolta’s gang all just… swim away from being surrounded by the FBI, like they are suddenly part mermaid or something. But aside from that, you’ve got efficiency of storytelling and the establishment of who most of the integral players are. It’s a solid beginning to the film.

-The plot centers around the utter lack of competency shown by Travolta’s character’s brother, Sean, and it makes you wonder how this guy has ever assisted in pulling off a job before. He is complete clown shoes from the word go. He has no backup plan. His base plan has a multitude of holes. He is shown to trust a friend who should have been untrustworthy. And he has his gun taken away by the bank manager. Sean is just the absolute pits in this flick and exists solely to present obstacles to Travolta.

It’s fine to have a character screw up and create problems for the fellow protagonists, but Sean is working overtime in this role in Cash Out. We are supposed to be watching a team of elite level criminals who have been unstoppable for years, but the second Sean is in charge of anything, everything goes to pot for them. It’s just not believable that he was ever a useful member of the team, and it feels like plot-driven idiocy to keep the story going.

-Have you ever watched a movie and thought something along the lines of “Wow, this is just a worse version of something else I really enjoy”? Cash Out plays as a much weaker version of Spike Lee’s Inside Man. You’ve got the playful dynamic between negotiator and criminal. The late introduction of a wealthy-yet-evil bank customer of whom the protagonists are out to reveal the secrets. The person who represents that shady antagonist in the dealings with the negotiator and the bank robbers. It’s all there, even if just in pieces or parts.

I guess this is a weaker version of many heist flicks, but it really had me thinking about Inside Man in particular. And given that I have that movie as no less than a 5 out of 5, unless you are REALLY bringing it, you as a movie probably don’t want to remind viewers of a substantially better film. It doesn’t end well for you. In this case, it made me want to turn off Cash Out and watch Denzel and Clive Owen.

OVERALL

Cash Out is a perfectly adequate movie. It’s shot well, and the scenes and settings all look really good. The acting is fine, more-or-less. Davis and Travolta don’t have the best chemistry, but it’s not wildly lacking, either. It’s nothing brand new, but it’s not really trying to be, either. At ninety minutes, it’s a perfectly acceptable watch, but I doubt anyone’s world is going to be set on fire by it, either. I just wish it made me feel something–anything–other than that it was a mostly okay way to kill an hour and a half.

★★ out of 5

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