Cash Out

Has any A-list star ever had a career as bonkers as John Travolta’s? He became a superstar in the ‘70s with the smash hits Saturday Night Fever and Grease. A decade later, he was relegated to barely released junk like The Experts and Chains of Gold. Quentin Tarantino revived Travolta’s career with Pulp Fiction, leading to a resurgence in popularity that made hits of Get Shorty, Michael, and Face/Off. Eventually, the hot streak cooled down. These days, the actor is almost always stuck in obscure day-and-date fare like The Fanatic, Trading Paint, and Speed Kills.

The thing is, Travolta himself has never lost his appeal. His talent remains, as does his star charisma. Why his career has such dramatic ups and downs is perplexing. Cash Out isn’t the worst picture he’s done in the last decade. Far from it. But this uninspired thriller is still beneath what we know he’s capable of. Can someone get Tarantino on the phone?

The actor plays Mason Goddard, a world-class thief. The opening scene finds him, girlfriend Amelia Decker (Kristin Davis), and his crew stealing a sports car worth over $20 million. When the heist is over, Amelia reveals she’s an undercover FBI agent sent to bust him. Right here is where Cash Out gets off track. The rest of the movie hinges on Mason’s hurt that his lover betrayed him, as well as on the possibility of continuing affection between them. Because we haven’t seen much of their relationship, this crucial element is undermined from the start.

Universal

You see, Mason escapes arrest and tries to retire on an island somewhere. He gets unwittingly pulled into a poorly planned bank robbing scheme by his screw-up brother Shawn (Lukas Haas). The cops surround the place, hostages are taken, and a negotiator is sent in. That negotiator? You guessed it – Amelia. They kick up a flirtation that Mason tries to use to his advantage. Amelia, meanwhile, bends a lot of rules to accommodate him. The plot deals with whether Mason and his gang can avoid arrest again and, if so, whether he and Amelia will resume their relationship.

Bank robbery dramas almost always generate at least a little suspense, which is true here. The contents of the safe deposit box Mason and Shawn are looking for is cleverly conceived, as is the reason they have trouble finding it. The outcome of the heist is dependent upon unresolved feelings between Mason and Amelia, though, meaning any tension is frequently broken by the need to address this underdeveloped romance. A romance, it should be added, that goes precisely where you expect it to.

The director, who goes by the name of Ives, tries to spice up the movie with an excess of dramatic drone shots. In fact, he’s apparently never seen a drone shot he didn’t love, because they’re annoyingly ubiquitous. Over-the-top visual flash of that sort only emphasizes how thin the central Mason/Amelia dynamic is. Despite John Travolta giving it his all, Cash Out cops out where it counts the most.


out of four

Cash Out is rated R for language. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan