ICYMI: Where The Money Is (2000)
Just like the greats in any field or specialty, Paul Newman made it look easy. Sure, he was handsome and charming (which opened more than a few doors) but he was also incredibly talented. He had an effortless gift for finding the center of his characters and making each cinematic portrait unique and memorable. From The Hustler to Cool Hand Luke to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to The Sting to The Verdict to Nobody’s Fool, Newman’s career was as extensive as it was accomplished. And while there were a handful of forgettable flicks along the way, you would never accuse Paul Newman of selling out or phoning it in.
One of his last performances saw Newman provide more than enough charisma to fuel the overlooked heist film Where The Money Is. The 2000 movie directed by Marek Kanievska (Less Than Zero) finds Newman’s Henry meeting his match and future partner in a retirement home nurse named Carol (Linda Fiorentino). The film is far from original but easily skates by on the engaging rapport of its lead performers.
From the outset, we get a brief glimpse into the listless life of Carol. A once promising future that saw her win prom queen and marry the prom king, Wayne (Dermot Mulroney), has now devolved into a loveless union and everyday monotony. Into this existence enters Henry. Transferred from a prison hospital because he is suffering from an apparent stroke, he immediately attracts Carol’s curiosity. After some research, she discovers his storied bank robbing history. It’s hard to not think of this is an alternate universe where Butch Cassidy survived that Mexican ambush.
Carol tries to execute a series of “Gotcha” antics to prove Henry is faking, including a very enticing lap dance. Eventually Carol’s tenacity outlasts Henry’s creative resourceful use of Tantric Buddhism and the two come to an agreement: she will keep his secret if he imparts his criminal tutelage. The middle section of the film is its most entertaining. Newman and Fiorentino have an easy rapport. No, there is nothing romantic going on, the film gets that right. Instead we see two kindred souls developing an intimate friendship based on a mutual talent for being able to see through people and a yearning for something more from life.
With a hesitantly enlisted Wayne, the three form a gang who plan an ambitious heist of an armored truck. Soon a perfect plan transforms into an improvised execution followed by the inevitable pursuit by John Q. Law. Thankfully, the light-hearted fare doesn’t get too bogged down by a predictable betrayal and a manhunt. But the film does have a priceless final scene that could have easily led to a sequel had the film been a hit.
Where The Money Is may have merely seemed like a vehicle for Paul Newman and his legendary radiance, the film only succeeds with the presence of Linda Fiorentino. Whether earned or not, she has a storied history of being difficult and outspoken. Regardless, you cannot deny her talent in early 80’s cinema like After Hours and Vision Quest to her captivating turn in The Last Seduction. Here, we watch her partner perfectly with a screen icon and yet be just as smart and wily. I especially like the scene where she charms a toaster out of bank teller, despite not opening a new account.
Believe it or not, Sean Connery was originally cast as Henry. And while I have no doubt that the original 007 would have been more than serviceable in the role, the ensuing casting of Paul Newman felt like kismet. A few years later Newman would earn a worthy Oscar nomination for his supporting work in Road to Perdition. But Where The Money Is epitomizes Paul Newman in his element: having fun and making it seem infectious.