Shitty Movie Sundays: Money Plane

One would think that professional wrestlers are tailormade action stars. They are athletic, charismatic, decent at improv, and willing to do just about anything to put on a good show. Also, one of the most important weapons in a wrestler’s arsenal is the ability to play a character. These men and women spend months or years crafting characters to which roaring crowds respond, either favorably, in the case of faces, or with gleeful jeers, in the case of heels. These are people who know how to work crowds, but remove the crowds, leaving nothing but cameras and crew, and the vast majority of wrestlers turned actor seem a bit lost.

Money Plane is a case in point. It was never going to be a big time action flick, but in star Adam Copeland, known as Edge when he wrestled for WWE, the film had a man who was expert at the larger than life spectacle of the ring. Yet there he was, speaking his lines like a first read-through. That’s not all on Copeland. Director Andrew Lawrence, for some reason, had his star spend most of the film sitting in an airplane cockpit talking over a radio, rather than kicking ass.

Copeland plays Jack Reese, some kind of mercenary/thief who made a bad decision at some point in his life, and ended up in the debt of international crime lord Darius Emmanuel Grouch III (Kelsey Grammer). What a spectacular name for a bad guy, and Grammer did all he could to fulfill its promise.

Grouch tasks Reese and his team (there’s always a team) to infiltrate a high stakes gambling operation aboard a jetliner, the titular Money Plane. The plane is a place for arms dealers, white slavers, drug kingpins, etc., to gamble large sums of money on very illegal contests, in safety and far from the prying eyes of law enforcement. Money Plane movie posterThe concierge of the plane is played to service industry perfection by former teen star Joey Lawrence, brother of the film’s director. The other player of note from the plane is Al Sapienza as the bookkeeper, who is equally as menacing.

The plan is for Reese to pose as a high stakes gambler, seize control of the plane, and allow cohorts who have also finagled their way aboard to transfer bitcoin from the servers aboard the plane, to servers on the ground, and steal any cash they find lying around. Then, before anyone suspects foul play, parachute out to safety. If things worked that smoothly, there wouldn’t be much of a movie, though. As it is, there still isn’t much of a movie.

After Reese takes over the cockpit, that’s pretty much it for anything interesting the character does. All the gambling, to absurd spectacle, is done by heist crew member Trey (Patrick Lamont Jr.), and the remaining ass-kicking is done by Isabella (Katrina Norman), a member who infiltrated the plane as a flight attendant.

So, Reese sits in the cockpit and argues over the radio with Grouch, Trey gambles, sometimes with his life, and Isabella beats up any drunken gamblers who get handsy. That’s about the entire middle act of the film, right up to denouement.

There was some lovely stunt casting in small roles, though. Reese needs a good guy reason to do his bad things, and that reason is Denise Richards as his wife, and some kids, somewhere. Thomas Jane even drops by as Reese’s mentor to dribble some wisdom and exposition for an easy payday. I like Thomas Jane, but it’s impossible not to be cynical about his role. It may be the high water mark of his post A-list, shitty movie career.

The true winner of this movie, though, is Grammer. He knew what this movie was. Everyone who was in it or helped make it knew what this movie was. That still didn’t stop him from playing the role of Grouch with gusto. He hammed it up in all the right spots. In a movie that was very tongue-in-cheek, his comedic timing was excellent. While Copeland was stuck sitting in a chair most of the film, Grammer was equally moored to a single set and still delivered, acting rings around everyone else in the movie. It didn’t come close to saving this dog.

There was a better b-movie to be had, here. Many of the storytelling choices were questionable. Also, the entire premise of the movie falls apart if one thinks about it too much, but why do that? There’s a plane in the sky full of gangsters and money, and a heist crew wants to go and get it. That should be gold. Instead, it’s #377 in the Shitty Movie Sundays Watchability Index, displacing Chain Gang Women.

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