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Fast Money
(1996)
 

Director: Alexander Wright                          
Cast:
Yancy Butler, Matt McCoy, John Ashton


Frankly, I'm surprised that it took this long for a movie like Fast Money to get made. No, it has nothing to do with the plot, of which we have seen variations of before. It also has nothing to do with unique characters, or casting certain actors (or non-actors) in unique and/or inspired roles. The notable factor it boasts comes from the fact that its a rip-off. Not a rip-off of a specific movie, or a specific genre. Fast Money is the first movie I can think of that tries to emulate the look, tone, and style of action from a typical movie from PM Entertainment. Regular readers will know already that I consider PM Entertainment to be one of the best made-for-video moviemakers on the market today, producing movies that generally make a hell of an effort to squeeze in as much of the goods in a movie as possible, in a well produced product. I feel if you are going to rip off someone, you might as well rip off from the best. And this movie makes a considerable effort, sharing many of the positive qualities that the best PM movies boast. The movie does come up short, even empty, in some areas, but it comes up with its own charms to make the movie overall a pleasant viewing experience.

This is one of those movie that you enjoy and smile at, despite any implausibilities. It's so eager to please, that I was happy to see the PM trademark of cars flying and twisting spectacularly through the air, even if it was obvious that the cars were really launched off ramps hidden behind the obstacles that the speeding cars "hit". And I didn't mind seeing one car being flung through the top half of a bus, which somehow ignites the bus in an explosion as if it was hit by napalm - it made for a great looking sequence. Goofy and hard to swallow, yes. But with attempts like this to satisfy the audience flung at us on a regular basis, the movie is always fun to watch. I wasn't bored for a second.

The beginning of the movie introduces us to Francesca (Butler), a notorious tough and high-class car thief who flies to Reno after the humiliation she inflicts on the task force tracking her makes conditions just a bit too hot for her in L.A. Along the way, circumstances find her linked up with unassertive and recently widowed newspaper reporter Jack (McCoy), assigned to Reno on a boring assignment. When Francesca can't resist stealing one more car (without the knowledge of Jack), they find themselves in possession of $2.7 million mob money, and the mob's counterfeit printing plates. Of course, the usual crew of mobsters and corrupt cops don't take kindly for this, and the chase soon begins.

The action scenes in this movie are overall decent (mainly consisting of the usual car crashes, splattery gun wounds, etc.), though usually they are a few notches below the average PM action sequence, and with a softer edge. Another problem hard-core action fans might have with the movie is that the number of action scenes here we have here are fewer than in the usual actioner, PM or not. Fast Money is different than a lot of actioners (including those from PM Entertainment) in that it takes not only the time to make believable and likable characters, but gives these characters plenty of time that might usually be reserved for more gratuitous action. True, there is a weakness in the Francesca character, in the fact that we never learn anything about her past, or really what drives her obsession in car thievery, an occupation usually held by men. Despite this, her character is still quite interesting. Francesca has been written to show off her traits in a more subtle fashion than usual; we see her effortlessly manipulating others, using words with great effect, and changing the subject with great ease when a situation is starting to get uncomfortable. The most interesting characters in movies are many times the most intelligent characters, and Francesca is a very smart woman. It's nice to see a strong woman in a role like this for a change, and it's fun seeing the sexes reversed. Which leads us to Jack, in the sidekick role that's usually filled by a crying and helpless woman. Such characters are usually very annoying and not necessary for the story, though Jack is written more realistically. Though he is shy, and not as strong or intelligent as Francesca, he's not a loser. His intelligence is average, his decisions reasonable, and he finds out he's not as helpless as he thought. His evolving actions as the movie goes on are believable as well.

Both Francesca and Jack are very likable characters, and Butler and McCoy give good and believable performances as the two leads. Best of all, they have chemistry together. I don't just mean the chemistry that comes in the inevitable love scenes (which manage to be steamy without really showing anything), but the scenes outside the bedroom. Their relationship keeps jumping between hot and cold throughout the movie, though even during the cooler moments, you sense that they still have a good amount of respect and affection towards each other. And these changes in the temperature are believable, because they come out of the reactions they have to many events they go through in the movie. Whether hot or cold, they have many sequences where they simply talk with each other, even getting a little philosophical at times. Whatever the temperature between them is, it's interesting and sometimes amusing to hear them talk to each other.

And speaking of amusing conversations, Fast Money actually gets more amusing as it goes along, and not just concerning this dynamic duo. There are a number of amusing details in the movie, such as the Elvis motel room, or a henchman of the villain who is a dead ringer for Oddjob from Goldfinger (complete with a bowler hat). Unfortunately, that bad guy hardly does a thing in this movie, getting blown away later in the movie with no effort at all. Throughout watching the movie, I could see a lot of potential that never got proper work, especially with the final confrontation, which is resolved way too quickly, and leaves a few loose ends unresolved. It plays almost like the filmmakers were running out of money and/or time. But even with this weak ending and the other notable flaws, I was glad to have rented this movie, to have been given a chance to speed around with these characters.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Executive Target, Body Armor, The Last Marshal

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