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Saturday, August 27, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 96 - Money Train (1995)

A note on exploitation.  Violence, when exploited, should either be disturbing (Gore or injured people on the ground in hordes) or exciting (Cars flying through the air as machine gunners spray their sides with bullets), so what happens when its neither?  Well, in that case you have Money Train.  Right off the success of White Men Can’t Jump, a funny, well-written movie starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, the two A-listers (at least they were at the time) star in this messy, uninteresting action flick about a disgruntled New York City cop who decides to steal a stash of stored money from accumulated subway fares as his adopted brother attempts to talk him down while protecting him from the authorities.

The message of Money Train is if you aren’t happy with your job, you should just steal from your boss.  But it goes further than that, it actually promotes the violence committed by the characters in the film.  In an early scene the two leads are in a chase and one of them runs right into an elderly man, plowing him into the concrete, Snipes looks back to crack a joke while Harrelson pushes himself off the ground from the old man’s back and leaves the extra lying there.  This is sort of the tone of this film, it has a mean streak, leaving waves of injured and dead people in its action’s wake and just sort of jokes about it.

The acting isn't as bad as most of the other films on this list, but money train marks a point where Snipes' career started taking a turn for the worse, and it would take years for Harrleson to pull back and use some smaller films or supporting roles to build his acting cred back up. That is why this is a tough one for me, because I like both Snipes and Harrleson. They're both two of the most distinct and charismatic actors of this last generation and the fact that they are reduced to making jokes at the expense of injured pedestrians and police officers is just sort of heartbreaking. They are both far, far, far above this pathetic material and White Men Can't Jump was proof.
This movie is so grim, so violent and so consequence-free (at least until the very end) that it was actually implicated in “inspiring” a string of subway booth robberies in New York that summer.  I don’t know how accurate this is (to me it sounded like congress blaming the Columbine shootings on the video game Doom), but this movie so blatantly disregards human life that it actually makes mindless assault on innocent people a joke.  Unlike other films that exploit violence but do so with a clever, tongue-in-cheek manner, I honestly believe we’re supposed to be rooting for the robberies, and for their violence.

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