April 22, 2000 -- Paul Newman, who has had a very long, successful career in Hollywood, just keeps cruising along, as charismatic as ever in his latest film, "Where the Money Is."
Newman (who recently appeared in "Message in a Bottle") plays an aging bank robber, Henry Manning, who fakes a stroke to get out of prison. Temporarily moved to a private nursing home, his nurse, Carol Ann McKay (well-played by Linda Fiorentino of "Dogma") suspects the old boy is really not a vegetable at all.
Using a very unusual medical technique usually used to teach the very young how to swim, she proves her theory and then proposes she join him in a bank robbery caper. Carol also persuades her husband, Wayne (Dermot Mulroney of "My Best Friend's Wedding") to join in the ingenious caper. Henry and Carol work well together in the caper, improvising when things go wrong, but Wayne gets jealous.
Newman, Fiorentino and Mulroney are all quite good together. Newman has charisma, intelligence and daring, as does Fiorentino. Mulroney is the perfect foil as the jealous sap of a husband who doesn't want to take any chances. The film moves a little slow, but it is well-crafted and well-acted with only an unbelievable chase scene near the end of the movie to dull what is otherwise a smarter-than-average script by E. Max Frye ("Palmetto").
The theme of the film sums up the American dream as depicted in Hollywood. Normal life is boring, empty and un fulfilling. The only way to make life worth living is to take risks, like robbing banks. There are people who have too much money and it is O.K. to rob them, as long as you don't hurt anybody. At one point in the movie, we learn that some of the loot comes from rap artists. The point is made that all the rap artists are doing is just talking, so it is perfectly all right to steal from them. Everybody in America wants to get rich, and they want to get rich quick. That is exactly what our heroes do in this film.
To the film's credit, it doesn't claim any fool can do what these guys do. It at least gives the idea that you have to do some work, such as finding the weak spots in the security systems, checking out the routines of the guards, etc. Then you have to come up with a plan to exploit the weaknesses you have found. You also need brains and experience. This is called work in the film, but it really isn't, it is just preparation for a theft. It is a caper. Caper films are all similar in this way. The audience gets to marvel at the craftiness of the crooks who outwit "the system." The audience becomes a co-conspirator with the crooks.
In the old days, and even in some modern films like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Heat," the bad guys always got what was coming to them. There was some sense of justice, or at least of Karma. In some films, like this one, there is no such thing. That would spoil the fun. That's also what makes "Where the Money is" a very pure, modern example of the American Dream. It's money for nothing and there are no consequences. It is an up to date immorality play. It is what everyone dreams about. This movie rates a B.
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