Even in his 70s, strapped into a wheelchair and (supposedly) paralyzed by a stroke, Paul Newman is magnetic.
In the caper comedy "Where the Money Is" he plays an aged bank robber who has spent the better part of his life in the can. His first hint of freedom in eons has come when he's transferred to a nursing home after suffering a seizure that has left him a near vegetable.
Or has it? Even motionless and contorted there's still that glint in his eye -- which doesn't go unnoticed by one caretaker, played by Linda Fiorentino.
An inherently sultry, smoky-voiced, former wild child and small town prom queen who married poor and got stuck in a rut as a physical therapist for retirees, she's bored with her routine life and fascinated by this bank robber, who she suspects of playing possum and goes to outrageous lengths to break through his catatonic facade.
She tries to talk him into giving up what she's sure is a charade. She drops dinner trays trying to make him jump. She even unbuttons her uniform and performs a little lap dance to try to, well, get a rise out of him.
But nothing works until she goes to the extreme, pushing him, wheelchair and all, off a pier and into a canal. Just as she's about to panic and dive in after him, he climbs out of the water, suddenly glaring, healthy and very much in control of his faculties, saying "So you think you're pretty smart. Now what?"
Directed by Marek Kanievska ("Less than Zero"), "Where the Money Is" may be little more than amiable matinee material, but with Newman as its axis, the movie becomes instantly entertaining.
His elusive charm carries the picture as it builds toward becoming an energetic heist romp when -- having jettisoned her ennui and rediscovered her appetite for thrills -- Fiorentino suggests she help him knock over a bank.
Newman rolls his eyes, but after a little bad luck with his old partner (who has taken off with his share of their last score) his best and only option seems to be to play along, planning an elaborate, chancy armored car job with this over-eager nurse and her nervous, unreliable husband (Dermot Mulroney).
Kanievska keeps the movie bouncing with light comedy ("How come you can't just be a compulsive shopper?" Mulroney complains to his wife) and a soundtrack heavy with toe-tapping Cars tunes from the '80s ("You Might Think," "My Best Friend's Girl"). He doesn't try to over-extend the film's guffaws or adventure because wisely recognizes "Money" for what it is -- capricious, low-calorie, five-dollar escapism for folks who don't require explosions, stunts or over-the-top comedians-cum-actors to have a good time at the movies.
Without Newman and Fiorentino -- who at 40 boasts the kind of sustained sensuality and appeal that may garner her the same kind of staying power her co-star has -- "Where the Money Is" might not be much more than a clever concept with a few pages of sassy dialogue. But with them, it's charismatic, sharp and lively, even if it is largely forgettable.
Run time: 89 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 20th July 2000
Distributed by: USA Home Entertainment
Production compaines: Gramercy Pictures, Intermedia Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 41
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Marek Kanivska
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