By: Maria R. (Two Beers) –
Released back in 1993, Money for Nothing mostly received negative reviews. Most agreed that John Cusack’s performance might be the only good thing about Ramón Menéndez’s effort. The movie’s synopsis doesn’t sound promising either. Cusack plays a dockworker called Joey Coyle who finds one million dollars fallen from an armored car. Sick and tired of being unemployed, Coyle chooses to keep the money. But his attempts to launder it and cover his tracks become painfully obvious. So why doesn’t this movie suck?
There’s something inexplicably pleasing to stumble upon a rather mediocre movie with an amazing cast. In this regard, Money for Nothing does live up to a true cinephile’s expectations. Take Michael Madsen who delivers a performance almost more impressive than Cusack’s. Or think of Benicio Del Toro, who’s cast against his usual type. Michael Rapaport and Debi Mazar’s screen time is shorter but still staggering. After all, it’s a peculiar experience to see familiar faces from pop culture artifacts. Especially, if those artifacts are so monumental, they forever left their stamps on actors who have once been part of the production.
Rapaport has enjoyed a moderate success, but let’s face it, ever since we’ve seen him alongside Lisa Kudrow in Friends, we’ll always remember him as Phoebe’s boyfriend Gary. In Money for Nothing he portrays the complete opposite of the overly masculine character from the famous sitcom. Mazar, mostly associated with multiple small roles in Madonna’s music videos, has more room to show her talents here.
It seems like certain sequences in Money for Nothing are included just to move the plot along. In contrast, the characters that are important to the story are rarely shown. By the time you see them on the screen again, you might have already forgotten what purpose their appearance serves. No doubt, the movie is unstable, but this is exactly why it’s special. The movie’s brilliance is in its capacity to serve as an excellent example of a 90s film figuring itself out. More precisely, it’s clearly a flick that would have been more appropriate in the 80s. However, it had to struggle to find its place in another decade.
The film doesn’t really know what to do with itself the way Bad Influence (1990) and Clueless (1994) don’t know where they need to go to please their viewers. These are the movies that remained in the making, in-between. Money for Nothing is too light to solely belong to the genre of crime. At the same time, the film attempts at implementing a more cynical approach. Menéndez examines people’s true colors relentlessly here. Coyle’s girlfriend considers giving the relationship a second chance only because of his newfound financial fortune. On the other hand, the protagonist’s interactions with his family members are way too touching. They make it harder to ascribe Money for Nothing to the series of wry and sardonic crime productions roaming around in the 90s.
Money for Nothing takes the best qualities of an 80s heartwarming comedy yet unsuccessfully combines it with the over-exaggerated cynicism, realism, and detachment of the 90s. It breaks your heart every time a few lines from one decade ruin the sweetness of another. This collision is thrust upon you, fast pacing absent in most required scenes a conspicuous sign. Whether you’ll enjoy this movie, thus, wholly depends on your own experience with flicks made in those decades. As an example of such juxtaposition, it’s a very curious piece of work that you shouldn’t overlook.
Money for Nothing Drinking Game
Do a Drink: whenever Joey tries to hide the money
Take a Shot: every time you see Michael Madsen on the screen
Take a Drink: every time Joey spends his money
Do a Shot: every time Cusack’s character screams