Artisan // 2002 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // June 28th, 2002
Two of the world's best criminal minds are on opposite sides of the law!
Taylor (Christian Slater) is the head of a crime crew that boasts more ethnic, gender, and physical diversity than should actually be able to competently commit crimes. After a botched breaking and arguing, said inclusion leads to incarceration for Master T. Upon release, he joins a new gang of felonious fashion victims who've obviously watched The Sting one too many times. After marking an off track betting parlor for their big score, they make off with a few mill in FBI inked funny money. Seems they've accidentally disrupted the plans of a corrupt G-man with a penchant for Pagliacci named Cornell (Val Kilmer). Corny sees this regalia of rubes as a means of helping him launder his unmentionable millions. Channeling Brando by way of Bozo, Cornball blackmails everyone and soon loyalties, and audience patience, are tested. Through a series of double, triple, Southern, and iron crosses, cash is posted certified mail, return receipt requested, enemies are Martinized, and several high profile actors slum for a paycheck. In the end, it's up to Taylor to pull the biggest heist of his life, not only to save his brat-napped grifter-in-training daughter, but also to keep Val from continuing with his goofy method on methadone performance.
Hard Cash is a stale, by the numbers heist drama that, in the end, leaves the audience speculating as to what all these A-list actors are doing in this mysterious, never made it to a multiplex muddle. It's not that the film is badly made, or poorly written, it's just that we have seen it done, and done thousands of times better in films from the silent era forward. Failing in its familiarity, it hopes to get by on sheer star power and nonsensical character idiosyncrasies: Like the Cuban/Russian Mafioso whose accent is as successful as the dry cleaning business (!) he runs. Or Vern Troyer as a mini mean assassin, who shoots hypodermic needles from his toy sized Luger. Or Jose, an ancillary immigrant character whose presence in the film seems like a private joke between the director and the city of Tijuana. Since there is a limited payoff to these diversions, they do nothing but confuse the audience, and underscore the real lack of drama or tension here. And any wattage these marquee names could have generated is quickly extinguished when blue screen silliness and stagehand car shaking is used to simulate the high-speed vehicle chases.
Artisan at least offers a unique setup with this DVD. The menu screen gives you several programming options: video (widescreen or full frame), audio (5.1 Dolby Digital or 2 Channel Dolby Surround), and subtitle (Spanish). Once all the info is entered, you can then play the film in the variation you desire. There is, however, virtually no difference in picture quality or framing between the full and widescreen versions, so it becomes a matter of personal preference. The image is good, with no pixelation and good clarity in the night scenes (and the true test for all digital images: underwater action). The dialogue (God help us) is better heard in the 5.1 Dolby Surround, where it's up front in the mix. This allows you full access to Val Kilmer's mumblings. Aside from the trailer, which is as bad as the film (mixing scenes out of order to try and create some excitement in the product), there are no other extras. While Artisan is guilty of being stingy, Hard Cash is the true criminal here, stealing 99 minutes of your otherwise valuable time.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R