Roger Ebert maintains a "movie glossary" on his website of cinematic cliches, and the mind wandered to it as I watched Diane Keaton in Mad Money. Keaton's fallen upper-class wife has one of those movie sinks. You know the kind: the whole spigot pops off, letting a powerful spray of water hit the hapless movie star in the face while she shrieks comically and tries to suppress the water with her hands. Has this ever happened quite like this in real life? Maybe, but about as often as three previously upstanding citizens repeatedly rob a federal reserve bank.
Callie Khouri, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma & Louise directs Keaton's woman in trouble. It's a shame Khouri didn't write the much-tinkered-with screenplay (credited to Glenn Gers and based on the BBC's Hot Money)—the results are clunky and give the always-welcome Keaton a decidedly unsympathetic role. Keaton plays Bridget, the greedy doyenne of a team of furtive female bank robbers; the others are Katie Holmes as dancing fool Jackie and Queen Latifah as celibate mom Nina. They're fine, but something's obviously wrong when the most impressive heist isn't the gals' rip-off of a federal reserve bank, but Ted Danson's admirable scene-stealing as Keaton's husband Don.
It's Don's downsizing and nearly $300,000 of debt that trigger Bridget's crimes, and the script, seeking further motivation, won't shut up about the nature of crime and money and greed. "Crime is contagious," Bridget tells us, direct to camera. "The truth is we're all capable of anything." "We're a consumer society, aren't we? She got consumed", says Don of Bridget. "They say money can't buy happiness, but it sure buys everything else," says Jackie's dim-bulb boyfriend. Ironically, the most incisive comment on theft is unspoken: its addictive nature, a freefall to hitting the bottom of getting caught. A taste leads to more and more, despite the risks and despite financial needs already having been met.
Even excepting such compulsion, Bridget is a horrible person, lying to her partners and spending $62,000 on a conspicuous diamond ring once her debt is paid. As usual for this sort of picture, the filmmakers have it both ways. Stealing is sort of wrong, but it's awfully fun! Aside from a poster showing the three women laughing in a shower of greenbacks, the film includes equivalent scenes and several montages of happy stealing. Poorly constructed and roughly edited, Mad Money is a typical studio cast-off—occasional physical bits and funny lines ("A drug test?" Keaton asks. "What kind of drugs would I have to take?") aren't enough to justify letting go of your own hard-earned cash.
Anchor Bay sends home Mad Money in mirrored Blu-ray and DVD packages. The Blu-ray transfer proves solid but dull, with a lightly hazy impression. A film that was (ironically) made on the cheap, Mad Money probably can't look much better, but it's hard to imagine the high-def Blu-ray offers a significant upgrade to a standard def DVD (ditto for the serviceable Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround soundtrack).
Fans of the film can dig in with a number of bonus features, beginning with an interesting commentary by director Callie Khouri. Though the track was recorded before the onset of the full-blown economic meltdown, Khouri still has fodder in the mortgage crisis to note "we were prescient." That comment seems only more true today, giving the film an extra "cachet" in its home-video debut. Khouri discusses the film's difficult development and what it took to bring the finished product to the screen.
"Makin' Money: Behind the Scenes of Mad Money" (9:12 in HD) is a generic EPK with mostly inane comments by Khouri, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes, Diane Keaton, Ted Danson, Adam Rothenberg, and Roger Cross. A selection of "Deleted and Alternate Scenes" (10:03 in HD) comes in workprint form (with prominent timecodes), but any opportunity to see cutting-room footage of Stephen Root is appealing. Lastly, the film's "Trailer" (2:17 in HD) is on hand, along with a selection of other previews.
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