For the Love of Money: Film Review
Ellie Kanner-Zuckerman's film follows the true account of an Israeli immigrant who searches for his piece of the American dream.
Although it’s doubtful that film fans walk around lamenting the dearth of Israeli characters in gangster movies, For the Love of Money nonetheless attempts to fill the gap. This decades-spanning saga about an Israeli immigrant becoming snared in the world of crime while pursuing the American dream boasts plenty of pungent atmosphere. But B-movie fans will mainly appreciate it for its plethora of familiar names in the supporting roles, including—as if to give the film his blessing—Godfather veteran James Caan.
The story begins in 1973 Tel Aviv, where young Izek (Jonathan Lipnicki, of Jerry Maguire fame) is raised amidst a violent atmosphere of gambling and illicit activities. Years later, desperate to start a new life, the now-grown Izek (a charismatic Yuda Levi) relocates with his cousin Yoni (Joshua Biton) to Los Angeles, where their entrepreneurial aspirations quickly pay off with a series of successful businesses.
But, to paraphrase a line from another gangster saga, just when Izek thought he was out, they pull him back in. Through circumstances too convoluted to recount, he finds himself running afoul various menacing figures, including a hot-tempered gangster (Caan, not exactly playing against type), a Columbian drug lord (Steven Bauer, working familiar territory from Scarface) and even his own cousin (Oded Fehr).
Based on the true-life story of one of its executive producers, the film features a convoluted storyline that it is difficult to follow despite the extensive use of first-person narration. And its themes of violence inevitably intruding on good intentions and domestic happiness are not exactly revelatory.
But it certainly looks and sounds impressive, thanks to the gritty cinematography of Andrzej Sekula (Pulp Fiction), the fluid editing by Karl T. Hirsch and Eric Strand and the extensive use of vintage ‘70s pop hits on the soundtrack. Director Ellie Kanner-Zuckerman keeps the proceedings moving at a sufficiently fast pace to compensate for the narrative deficiencies.
But it’s that delicious supporting cast that provides the most fun. Besides the aforementioned performers, among those appearing in minor roles are Paul Sorvino, Edward Furlong and Jeffrey Tambor. Casting directors Mary Jo Slater and Dori Zuckerman have clearly earned their paychecks.
Opens June 8 (Archstone Distribution)
Production: All Cash Productions
Cast: Yuda Levi, Delphine Chaneac, Joshua Biton, Cody Longo, Jeffrey Tambor, Steven Bauer, Jonathan Lipnicki, Michael Benyaer, Richard Gunn, Edward Furlong, Oded Fehr
Director: Ellie Kanner-Zuckerman
Screenwriter: Jenna Mattison
Story: Michael Micco
Producers: Izek Shomof, Jenna Mattison
Executive producers: Izek Shomof, Ken Topolosky
Director of photography: Andrzej Sekula
Editors: Karl T. Hirsch, Eric Strand
Production design: Travis Zariwny
Costume design: Ariyela Wald-Cohain
Music: Jerome Dillon
Rated R, 93 min.