Directed by Warren P. Sonoda, The Things I Do for Money is a frantic (and often-fun) heist film that never quite steals your heart. Set in Hamilton, ON, Money follows two young Japanese brothers, Eli and Nick Yaguchi (Theodor and Maximillian Aoki), gifted cellists who await their chance to prove themselves musically. When local thug (and Nick’s boss), Alexei Raduli (Dax Lough) insists that they boys miss their upcoming recital to help him pull off an elaborate heist, Nick is willing… but Eli resists. Determined to avoid being pulled into a life of crime, Eli attempts to pull his brother away from Alexei to focus on their music. However, when a bag of money mysteriously appears, the boys are pulled into the underworld and must decide what it means for them to have a future.
Featuring mostly enjoyable performances by its cast, Money wisely focuses its story on the relationship between the two brothers, Eli and Nick. Effective and engaging, real-life brothers Maximillian and Theodor Aoki work well together and their relationship anchors the film. Whether they’re bringing down the mob or playing a cello recital, these are two brothers that need each other to survive in this world.
Of course, with any heist film, the always-elaborate climactic robbery is always the most difficult aspect of the film to pull off for any writer. While the plan always needs to be simple enough at the outset for the audience to understand the stakes, there almost always needs to be some surprise twist that catches them off-guard. In this way, as the big moment unravels, Sonoda and co-writer, Gary R. D. Nolan, do a good job keeping the film bouncing along with the necessary energy to keep the audience invested.
Where the script for Money struggles, however, is under the weight of its own ambition. While the heist and the relationship between the brothers work well, there are simply too many subplots along the way that confuse. Featuring multiple mobsters and double-cross dealings, Money too often feels bogged down by side stories to really connect the dots efficiently. As a result, the film unfortunately never fully comes together, despite the creativity of its setting and characters. (When was the last time you’ve seen a team of cellists work together to bring down the mob? Or a casual meeting in a retirement home that is also a front for local crime lords?)
Interestingly, there’s a strange contradiction within Money that weaves itself into the struggles within the film. Though Eli and Nick come from a family with a history of illegal activity, Eli can see that their career as cellists can help them set a new path. As the moral conscience of the two brothers, Eli desperately wants to use their musical creativity to leave their mark on the world and continues to call Nick to lean into healthier life choices. (“We’re not criminals,” Eli insists… but can they hold to that if they’re planning a heist?) Nevertheless, despite the fact that they fight to break free from their family’s history of criminal activity, they keep getting drawn back in. In this way, the film strikes a contradictory note as hope for their future seems to lie in their music yet their freedom depends on leaning into their family’s past. As a result, despite its fun tone and energy, Money still seems to carry with it a whiff of sadness as escaping their past somehow also means embracing it as their future.
In the end, The Things I Do for Money is an ambitious film that has simply too many moving pieces to assemble them tightly. This is a film that offers plenty of ‘madness’, while sometimes lacking in the ‘method’ of it. Even so, despite its flaws, Money is original and entertaining enough for a night of fun and thievery.
- Release Date: 8/14/2020