Film Review: Blood MoneyHigh-school best friends on their first college camping trip cross paths with a ruthless embezzler in this derivative but effective thriller.
Elite college runner Lynn (Willa Fitzgerald)—nicknamed "Cheetah"—and friends Vic (Ellar Coltrane) and Jeff (Jacob Artist), get together for their first post-high-school summer camping-and-rafting trip. But things have changed since last year, and not just because only two of them are now in college. Lynn, whose future plans were resting on a track scholarship, has suffered a potentially devastating knee injury and is starting to realize that she may never fully recover. She's also dating well-to-do Jeff, which is super-awkward because Vic—who's had to drop out of school entirely—is both her ex and Jeff's longtime best friend, and Vic had no idea that his two pals have become an item.
Still, that's just awkward: What really turns up the heat is that Lynn and Jeff stumble across a bunch of duffel bags stuffed with $100 bills, which embezzler Miller (John Cusack) has dumped in the woods from a small plane; all he needs to do is collect it and he'll be able to finance a whole new life. Of course, the situation quickly goes south—while Lynn advises that they paddle downriver with the loot and avoid the scrum of student partiers at nearby Sunrise landing, Jeff takes them right through the hotspot and manages to lose one of the bags. What are the odds that they're going to get away unnoticed now? Especially since Vic has met up with Miller in the woods, which is only the first of many complications that rapidly strip the three friends of their illusions about themselves and each other.
If this all sounds familiar, it's because the plot and character dynamics strongly resemble those of 1998's A Simple Plan, as does its underlying message about money's power to shatter friendships and corrupt ideals. But nearly 20 years separate the two films, and if director Lucky McKee isn't A Simple Plan's Sam Raimi, he's also no slouch. Blood Money's downside is that the cast just isn't as accomplished as the combination of Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda. Coltrane, Artist and Fitzgerald aren't bad; they're just not as good, which makes the story's pulp roots more apparent. But as pulp thrillers go, Blood Money is thoroughly watchable and satisfyingly tough—enough so that opening with a preview of the finale actually doesn't undermine it.
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