Andrew Lawrence’s action-comedy heist film is somehow both better, and far worse than you can imagine.
When the trailer for Money Plane was released, it was described as “the best movie of 2020.” The poster for it looks like something that was cobbled together on MS Paint, promising an “explosive casino heist in the sky,” when no explosions actually take place. Perhaps most enticingly, a clip circulated on social media of Kelsey Grammer proclaiming “Some of the baddest motherfuckers are on that plane. You wanna bet on a guy fuckin’ an alligator? Money plane.” Now, it’s said that if you always keep your expectations low, you’ll never be disappointed, but it’s hard to not get carried away with excitement over how bad Money Plane could be.
Alas, it brings me no pleasure to report that Money Plane is disappointingly dull. No alligators are fucked, and the “explosive casino heist” consists of knocking one (1) person out in order to break into a safe, then downloading some data from an iPhone. Its promise of camp adventure on a plane full of criminals and psychopaths is never fulfilled, and the only person who looks like he’s having any fun is Kelsey Grammer, settling into a bizarre post-Frasier career of taking roles in movies based upon whose check clears first. If you’re wondering what Denise Richards and Thomas Jane, who once had a promising career, are doing in it, well, not very much. Richards’ screentime totals approximately three minutes, and is reserved to reciting such gripping dialogue as “Time for bed, honey,” and “I can’t believe you have to go again so soon.” Jane shows up more, but his character is so inconsequential to the plot that it doesn’t look like he even had to leave his house to film his scenes.
The most interesting thing about Money Plane is that it’s co-written and directed by Andrew Lawrence, youngest of the Lawrence brothers, the ubiquitous child actors of 80s and 90s television. All three of them appear in it too (with middle brother Matthew wearing a fake mustache and cowboy hat that make him look like Uncle Pecos from Tom and Jerry), which would be touching if it wasn’t a movie that could be described as “Leverage on a plane, but really stupid.” Actually, that’s not fair to Leverage, a perfectly competent TV show. It’s more like Lawrence and co-writer Tim Schaaf (along with two more writers getting a “story by” credit!) half-listened to an explanation of the plot of Leverage, maybe skimmed a review of Ocean’s 11, and then decided to write their own “getting the gang back together for one last score” movie. It’s a collection of the most tiresome cliches of those kinds of movies — the nerdy computer guy, the sexy dame who uses her body to distract the bad guys, some nonsense involving “cryptocurrency” — starring actors who are unsure if they’re supposed to be in a comedy or not.
Jack Reese (former professional wrestler Adam Copeland, who is…not terrible, surprisingly) is a professional art thief who just wants to retire and live a peaceful life with his wife and daughter. When an assignment goes wrong, however, Reese and his team are left several million dollars in debt to Darius Grouch (Kelsey Grammer), a…well, it’s not entirely clear. Maybe he’s a mafia kingpin. Maybe he’s a drug lord. The movie never clarifies either way, other than he’s a villain and the self-proclaimed “baddest motherfucker on the planet,” and let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Kelsey Grammer, who plays his role like a grumpy dad, describe himself as “the baddest motherfucker on the planet.”
The best thing you can say about Money Plane is that it has the decency to be less than ninety minutes long.
Grouch orders Reese and his team to infiltrate the titular money plane, a “bulletproof casino in the sky” filled with money and drugs, where the passengers are the world’s most notorious criminals, and no government can touch them because it flies over international waters (I don’t think that’s how that works, but never mind). With that description you might expect to see some debauchery and depravity served up with a can of soda and a tiny package of peanuts, but the inside of Money Plane looks like it was shot in a dentist’s office, with some neon tubing and a lava lamp as decoration. The handful of passengers are mostly middle-aged schlubs with bad facial hair and cheap suits, and look more like they’re on their way to the most depressing bachelor party anyone’s ever been to, rather than arms dealers and human traffickers. There’s an inordinate number of rules they have to follow, all explained by Joey Lawrence as the concierge, who, given the sly way he looks at everyone, seems like he might have something more to do with the plot than provide exposition, but he doesn’t.
Things don’t get much crazier on the Money Plane than some of the passengers betting on a game of Russian roulette, and watching people fight on an iPad, wagering when one of them will be killed. Somehow, this is all exciting enough that Reese and his team can easily, almost hilariously so, take over the plane. Apparently all it takes to pull one over on an FBI’s most wanted master criminal is to pretend to do an indifferent striptease in front of him, who knew? We should all be hijacking money planes!
The best thing you can say about Money Plane is that it has the decency to be less than ninety minutes long. This is good, because, other than a handful of some of the most incompetently choreographed and filmed fight scenes you’ll ever see, almost nothing happens. Stealing from the Money Plane looks to be as easy as swiping some bubble gum from a 7-11. The most action-packed it gets is watching Thomas Jane muttering to himself while operating a drone with his laptop, thousands of miles from where the action is actually taking place. The third act “twist” doesn’t make any sense (a character who is already established to be a bad guy is revealed to still be a bad guy), and the audacity to end with the suggestion of a sequel is just…well, it takes some iron balls.
Similar to last year’s dreadful Polar, Lawrence and his writing team (seriously, it took four people to come up with this) seem to be trying to escape criticism by occasionally taking a stab at being funny. Of course it’s a bad movie, it’s supposed to be, don’t you get it?? It’s a satire of lunkhead action movies. I don’t buy that, and neither should you. The bits of “comedy” are lazily strewn about, like a summer school crafting project. If Money Plane was 100% earnest, it would be far more entertaining. Instead, it’s just cynical, ugly, and, most unforgivably, boring.
Money Plane is available on VOD (but why would you want it?) starting July 10th.