Image Entertainment // 2008 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // December 2nd, 2009
Relationships don't come cheap.
Loaded up with a truly impressive cast, there's really only one problem with $5 a Day: we've seen it all so many times before. Yes, it's another unhappy 30-something rediscovers joy with his quirky con-man father movie.
In this particular outing, Flynn (Alessandro Nivola, Face/Off) is an ex-con trying to make a living as a health inspector, but has just been fired because of his history in the system. He is contacted by his father, Nat (Christopher Walken, Batman Returns), who takes him on a con-filled cross-country journey to get free treatment for a brain tumor that we have to seriously doubt from the first scene.
In addition to our main duo, we get cameos here by Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct), Dean Cain (Lois and Clark), and Amanda Peet (Syriana). Sometimes, I think directors and producers think that if they just manage to get a good enough cast, they can completely ignore the quality of the script. It's as though the right people can elevate a bad film to great art. To an extent, a good cast can greatly improve a film, of course, but it's not that easy.
Unfortunately, it takes a little more than a few good performances to turn crap into gold. There have been a lot of films about cons, and the best of them feature brilliant heroes who create exquisite cons that we realize that we could even be taken by. This is not one of those films. Here, Walken's Nat is somewhat charming, but not enough that we believe his ridiculous antics could actually be real. $5 a Day hinges on the solid relationship between Nat and Flynn, but it's important that the cons are also plausible. As an example: Nat has a pink Sweet 'N Low car that he drives to save money. The car is funny when we first see it, but the camera lingers too long on the car every time it's in frame, trying to remind us of the cleverness and humor of it all (or maybe just fulfilling a contractual obligation with Sweet 'N Low).
Again, the relationship between Nat and Flynn is more important than all of that, and it does work well. Nivola plays a skilled everyman -- surprisingly so, for a man who spent four years in prison -- and Walken is always fun to see on screen. By the end, though, it's all too obvious that $5 a Day is a film built around a relationship, rather than a relationship designed to fit at the core of a film. It's not the way it should be.
I can say little about the transfer because I received a test disc. It is an anamorphic transfer, but it is squeezed onto a single layer disc, so it doesn't look as good as it hopefully will in the final version. The sound is the same. There were no special features here.
For fans of father/son comedies, $5 a Day is a worthwhile rental. It does have a solid cast, even though we've been on this road trip a number of times before. The ultimate problem is that the familiar landscapes fly by, and we find ourselves bored rather than enchanted.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* View the Trailer