Gang Money Run is the kind of trivial action flick that ran rampant in the late 90s right after director/writer Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. It was during a time when wannabe quirky gangster movies like Suicide Kings, Boondock Saints, and Things to Do in Denver When Your Dead tried to piggyback on the popularity of Tarantino’s style — itself borrowed from other movies — hoping people would deem the obvious imitation as a form of flattery rather than uninspired clones of better projects. Some passed the test so well, any Tarantino similarities were easily brushed off (Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight) while others had no qualms about being second-rate ripoffs (2 Days in the Valley). Unfortunately for first-time feature director/writer R. Scott Leisk, Gang Money Run is about as bush-league as it can get.
The problems begin and end with Leisk’s generic script. Little effort is put into this narrative to make it stand out from the countless “bag of money” movies that have come before it. We’re not asking for No Country for Old Men, Fargo or A Simple Plan here, but audiences don’t get anything even resembling an interesting storyline to follow. Leisk fails from every angle. The ineptness of the characters, the inattention to detail and logic, and the questionable directorial choices stop Gang Money Run dead in its tracks.
In Leisk’s film, which was shot entirely in San Antonio, actor Wesley Blake stars as Jackson Schultz, an IT guy and aspiring musician who takes a duffle bag full of money off a dead man he finds on the floor inside a restaurant bathroom. With a cool $250K in hand, Jackson goes on the run from a pair of idiot hitmen (Craig Rainey and Larry Sands) whose boss is demanding the money back. Also on his trail: a gangbanging drug cartel and their cholo leader Chato (Jesse Campos), who happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Mercedes (Denise Downs), a “burlesque dancer” (ahem, stripper) Jackson gets friendly with after he takes the cash.
The clichés, ethnic stereotypes and massive plot holes start building up fast as Jackson dodges his way through a screenplay that shoots itself in the foot on plenty of occasions. There are so many instances of dumb luck and characters lacking even the bare minimum of common sense, it almost feels like Leisk might’ve been trying to spoof the genre at his own expense. Sadly, Gang Money Run takes itself entirely too serious not to believe everyone involved was playing it straight.
Questions abound that the script doesn’t offer answers to and when Leisk does try to justify some of the narrative pitfalls he writes characters into, the explanations are shaky at best. How do the hitmen end up at the same strip club as Jackson in the first place? What motivates Mercedes to get more involved with Jackson once she knows her life is in danger and why the hell does she keep going out alone when there are killers after her? Why are the cops introduced into the story only to never be mentioned again despite the fact they should’ve been called on for help numerous times and why aren’t they watching Chato and his carnales closer if he’s a known criminal? Why don’t Jackson and Mercedes make any sensible decisions when they’re together, but still find time to have awkwardly-timed sex and enjoy post-coitus karaoke?
Whatever the reasons, Gang Money Run isn’t close to being smart enough to untangle itself from the mess it makes with bad characterizations, unconvincing emotional scenes, and terrible dialogue (“Chalé! I’m a businessman and business is business.”). Maybe more discerning audiences will try and speculate how and why certain things happen without explanation (or with brainless, ambiguous scenarios), but without a compelling reason to care about any of these characters, what would be the point?
Gang Money Run makes its San Antonio premiere on Tuesday, July 14 at 7:30 pm at the Santikos Palladium. The screening is sold out. The movie is also available at a Redbox near you.
Gang Money Run
Dir. and writ. R. Scott Leisk; feat. Wesley Blake, Denise Downs, Jesse Campos, Drew Whelpley, Craig Rainey, Larry Sands, Sandra Nori (NR)