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For the Love of Money

The Money 2012 | 93 min | R | 2.39:1

For the Love of Money


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Theatrical release date

 22 June, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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For the Love of Money Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 21, 2012

While I don’t dispute the authenticity of the “true story” behind “For the Love of Money,” the filmmaking choices are strictly second-hand, pulled from all areas of gangster cinema. An attempt to make an Israeli “Goodfellas” with a splash of “Scarface” on a minuscule budget, the feature simply bites off more than it can chew, fumbling through a series of underworld encounters while burdened with an ensemble of uncharismatic actors, a few who’ve frolicked in these blood-spattered fields before. Director Ellie Kanner-Zuckerman labors to fluff up the picture with a colorful soundtrack of rock and pop hits, but it’s merely a smoke screen to keep attention off the general disorganized atmosphere of the effort, which looks to ape Scorsese but can only muster Corman.

Growing up in Tel Aviv during the 1970s, Isaac (Yehuda Levi) observed his family deal with all sorts of criminal types in the family bar, raised to appreciate a difficult situation while instilled with a drive to acquire wealth and power through hard work, preferably alongside friend Yoni (Joshua Biton). Relocating to Los Angeles to chase the American Dream, Isaac finds success with his auto repair shop, also obtaining love with wife Aline (Delphine Chaneac). When a disturbing clash with gangster Mickey (James Caan) shakes the foundation of his empire, Isaac begins to rethink his safety, while a new round of trouble returns to his life in the form of Levi (Oded Fehr), Yoni’s jailbird brother. Looking to take over Mickey’s criminal interests, Levi builds himself into a powerful drug lord, teaming with Hector (Steven Bauer) and his Miami cocaine trade to make a fortune. When the plan is disrupted by greed, Isaac finds himself in the line of fire, forced to clean up the mess or else Hector will kill Yoni.

“For the Love of Money” is ambitious, which is a positive quality to any motion picture, but it’s also clueless, seemingly unaware it doesn’t have the money or quality of ensemble to bring to life a sprawling international crime saga. Scripted by Jenna Mattison, the movie is constructed out of strange encounters with random gangsters, endeavoring to build a cyclical experience for Isaac as he grows from teenage observer to an adult accomplice, trying to keep on the straight and narrow while outside forces continually swerve him straight back to illegal activity. The character arc is a common one, viewed in hundreds of crime features, yet Mattison introduces a few odd detours to maintain interest and preserve the authenticity of the story, including the combustibility of Mickey, who finds himself at odds with Isaac not over drug deals or a botched assassination, but a bad paint job on his Mercedes. The peculiarity of such screen tension keeps “For the Love of Money” somewhat interesting.

A disjointed viewing experience, “For the Love of Money” relies on the semi-famous faces gathered here to portray all manner of unsavory characters. Besides Caan and Bauer, Paul Sorvino pops up as a Texas hooligan, Edward Furlong plays the least believable Israeli gangster in cinema history, and Jeffery Tambor cameos as a sleazy real estate agent. Also making an appearance is Jonathan Lipnicki, the young actor who found fame as the child star of “Jerry Maguire.” He’s all grown up now, but still carries the same slack-jawed look of bewilderment. The cast, a few buried under atrocious wigs, goes through the motions without much fuss, but they’re all working uphill with this material, trying to come off butch in a movie that doesn’t carry the proper machismo. There’s little directorial polish to sell the winding criminal road, leaving the performances dry and overly cliché. I’m sure Kanner-Zuckerman was incredibly proud to attract such talent to her film, yet she doesn’t know how to bring moments to life, worried more about editorial transitions than nurturing the brute force the material deserves.

Perhaps stealing all the budgetary coin is the soundtrack, which features an impressive line-up of hits from known artists of the 1970s and ‘80s (including Billy Squire, Phil Collins, and Blondie). It’s not exactly a Quentin Tarantino-approved sonic journey, but the music manages to inject a AA-battery charge into the proceedings, keeping the seedy antics successfully energized. The music ends up the only memorable element of “For the Love of Money.” Despite a story that spans continents and menacing characters, delves into paralyzing choices of survival, and ends with a showdown featuring a surprisingly merciful Cuban drug lord, the viewer will likely come away humming the tunes instead of recalling the drama.

Starring: Yehuda Levi, James Caan, Oded Fehr
Director: Ellie Kanner

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