‘Money Plane’ Might Be the Dumbest Movie of 2020
The action thriller stars a WWE superstar—as well as a comically sinister Kelsey Grammer and Denise Richards—and involves a head-scratching mid-air casino heist.
In the history of dumb ideas, few have been stupider than the Money Plane, a high-flying casino in which the world’s worst—and wealthiest—criminals wager on whatever outrageously deadly games their hearts desire while avoiding capture by soaring through international airspace. Easily tracked during takeoff and landing, as well as traced mid-flight via radar, it’s a den of illicit vice and sin that any two-bit federal agent would be able to shut down in a couple hours’ time. To consider the Money Plane for even a second is to realize not only the logistical ease with which such an operation could be thwarted but the bedrock inanity of setting it up in the first place.
That Money Plane exists as an actual feature is a depressing commentary on movie-industry idiocy, if also some sort of wacko testament to those who both concocted it, and then wheeled-and-dealed it into cinematic reality. Credit for that disheartening feat goes to director and co-writer Andrew Lawrence, whose skill at enticing funding and actors for this project far exceeds his aptitude for staging it. Cut-rate C-grade action is the order of the day in this thriller (on VOD July 10), which is most notable for its seamless marriage of chintzy production design, wooden dialogue and first-day-of-rehearsal performances from a cast headlined by monotone WWE superstar Adam “Edge” Copeland, perpetually mugging (and slumming) Kelsey Grammer, and Lawrence’s brothers Joey and Matthew.
The fact that the criminals responsible for the Money Plane couldn’t come up with a better moniker for their aerial gambling lair is emblematic of the business’ absurdity, as well as the film’s lack of imagination. From the moment it denotes its initial setting as “Art Museum,” Money Plane is a brainless affair, which goes double for its hero Jack Reese (Copeland). At outset, Jack is a pony-tailed hunk in an ill-fitting suit who’s been hired to steal a valuable painting. As embodied by Copeland, he’s a muscular blank slate who’s defined by an early mid-heist mistake in which a comrade radios to him to go left and he instinctively tries to open a door on his right (quick on the uptake he is not). Thus, it’s no surprise when the robbery goes awry thanks to a double cross, and Jack narrowly escapes only thanks to the efforts of his team—tough and sexy Isabella (Katrina Norman); tech geek Trey (Patrick Lamont Jr.); and perfunctory fourth squad member Iggy (Lawrence)—as well as point-blank gunfire that manages to magically miss him.
Talk about how Jack needs to trust his gut suggests that his failure has to do with a dearth of self-confidence. But mostly, he just seems like a guy with no interior life or thoughts, and that continues once he sits down with Darius “The Rumble” Grouch (Grammer), whose name is the most interesting thing about Money Plane. Rumble Grouch is mad about Jack and company’s unsuccessful robbery and, having assumed Jack’s sizeable gambling debts, now claims to “own” him. As any good malevolently grinning gangster might, cigar-puffing Rumble Grouch uses his leverage to force Jack to rob the Money Plane of its billions in digital cryptocurrency and millions in cash. To facilitate this job, he gives Jack and his pals new gear, funds with which to gamble, and cover identities—including, preposterously, the Irish alias Mr. McGillicutty for young African-American Trey. Apparently, Rumble Grouch isn’t too bright either.
Once on board the plane, Jack pretends to be a human trafficker and then promptly seizes control of the cockpit, his disappearance from the main cabins noticed by exactly nobody. Posing as his sidekick, Trey triumphs in a game of Russian Roulette against The Cowboy (Matthew Lawrence)—whose giant mustache looks like it was purchased from a gag shop—and wins big wagering on videos of randos being attacked by animals and hacked apart by scumbags. This impresses the Concierge (Joey Lawrence), whose crinkly suit pants indicate he’s not affluent enough to afford a competent tailor. But it infuriates Ivan Vitali (Aleksander Vayshelboym), an arms dealer who—along with his leering sidekick—is around to be an evil wrench in Jack’s plans. Ivan and his pal like to inappropriately grope and proposition Isabella, who’s pretending to be a flight attendant, although their finest (i.e. lowest) moment comes in the film’s most excruciating exchange, when Ivan tells Trey that if more Black people bought guns, fewer of them would be forced into slavery.
The scheme to snatch the Money Plane’s loot is as simplistic as it is dull, and Lawrence’s direction manages to make each composition more mundane than the last. The film’s lame plane set is too cramped to afford Copeland an opportunity to perform any body slams, suplexes or Spear-style finishing moves, and a subplot involving Iggy—who’s on the ground, waiting to digitally swipe the cryptocurrency once the Money Plane flies overhead—is totally ignorable. That also goes for the two bookending scenes involving Jack and his daughter (Emma Gordon) and wife (Denise Richards). In the former, Jack explains to his kid that it’s OK to steal so long as you’re ripping off someone really bad, but it’s better still to share. Which, I mean, he’s a master thief, so this advice makes no sense.
For reasons that are equally difficult to comprehend, Thomas Jane lends his effort to this misbegotten venture as Harry, Jack’s best friend and a former Air Force ace. Harry is a half-realized, in-the-know deus ex machina badass whose primary purpose is to kill some intruders and, at a particularly opportune instance, to pilot a deadly drone. Seeing Jane sleepwalk his way through this is more than a bit sad, especially since the film’s other notable actor, Kelsey Grammer, hams it up with laughable relish. Sneering, snarling and generally conducting himself with all the subtlety of a villain from Grand Theft Auto, the former Frasier star does appear to grasp the ludicrousness of the proceedings, even if he’s given so little to do that the effort he expends on over-the-top expressions is ultimately wasted.
Then again, renting Money Plane is one’s own ticket to wasting time, money, and precious mental energy that could be spent in infinitely more useful ways.