FILM REVIEW – MONEY PLANE. With Adam Copeland, Kelsey Grammer, Joey Lawrence, Thomas Jane, Denise Richards. Screenplay by Andrew Lawrence and Tim Schaaf. Directed by Andrew Lawrence. Unrated, but contains violence and profanity. 82 minutes.
Fakes on a plane
Besides maybe proctologist appointments and parades, there are few things in this world more excruciatingly un-fun than intentional camp. The internet already has a way of putting everything in air quotes, so when folks make a big deal out of getting their irony on to live-tweet the latest “Sharknado” my skin crawls in vicarious embarrassment. There’s no valor in making a bad movie on purpose, nor any joy in watching something that’s designed to be terrible meet expectations. Initially I was worried that MONEY PLANE—with its moronic premise and thrillingly dunderheaded title—would be another winking exercise in fatuousness, a movie made to be meme’d.
But I was flooded with relief during the film’s opening moments, during which a team of high-tech heist guys led by former WWE wrestler Adam Copeland try to take down an art museum that’s quite screamingly obviously an office building, despite the onscreen title insisting in capital letters that it is indeed an “ART MUSEUM.” Sorry kids, “Money Plane” is no smarmy, meta-exercise in self-mockery, but rather a feat of genuine incompetence. It comes by its crappiness honestly.
The plot is too inane to recount in detail without sounding like I’ve suffered a head injury, but the gist of it is that our heist guy hero is being blackmailed into robbing the titular currency aircraft by Kelsey Grammer’s sinister crime boss Darius Emmanuel Grouch III, who prefers to be called The Rumble, though we never really hear anyone address him as such. (If you were a villain born Darius Grouch, why would you want a nickname?) Grammer is having a grand old time here. You can tell how evil he is by how long he takes to light his cigars, and the former Frasier savors saying the word “motherfucker” over and over like he’s been waiting for this moment his entire career.
So the Money Plane is basically a big casino in the sky taking advantage of lawless international airspace so the passengers can place bets on all sorts of violent, deviant acts. (I don’t think this checks out legally, but I rolled with it.) Grammer says you can even “bet on a dude fucking an alligator.” Now I’m still not sure how that wager would work, but there’s also billion dollars in crypto-currency on board (I don’t how that works, either) along with giant piles of cash in the vault that our hero needs to steal or otherwise The Rumble will kill his wife (Denise Richards) and baby daughter.
One of many curious choices is hiring a former professional wrester to play the lead and then cooping him up in the cockpit, flying the Money Plane and muttering orders to his team through a headset. Copeland seems to be trying to do for man buns what Steven Seagal did for the ponytail, but he’s also got a heavy, doleful countenance that’s awfully out of step with this silly story. He just looks really sad the whole time, for which I guess I can’t blame the guy because Dwayne Johnson and John Cena turned their wrestling careers into superstardom while he’s stuck here in “Money Plane.”
The aircraft’s interior makes little attempt to hide the fact that it’s a soundstage with lots of curtains draped over some C-stands and a poker table in the middle. Back in the good old days films like this used to try and compensate for their poor production values with gratuitous nudity and gore, but this one’s so stuffy it casts Denise Richards as the hero’s supportive, suburban wife.
Further curiosities include the director’s brother, Joey Lawrence, as a fey concierge with a pistol and a princess phone, suggesting what Ian McShane’s role in the “John Wick” pictures might have been like had he, too, co-starred on “Blossom.” Thomas Jane shows up to fly a drone while smoking a pipe for some reason. But my favorite bit of boneheaded dialogue introduces the director’s other brother, Matthew Lawrence as “the undefeated” Russian Roulette Champion of the World. I guess it goes without saying, but he kinda has to be undefeated, doesn’t he?•••
Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and RogerEbert.com. He stashes them all at Spliced Personality