For the Love of Money
Part Scarface, part In America, immigrant's tale For the Love of Money puts a Jewish-American spin on the hardscrabble and borderline-illegal fight for entrepreneurial rooting that colors dramatic depictions of so many stories of strangers trying to find their way in opportunistic and upwardly mobile fashion in a new country. Touting itself as based on true events (and feeling very much financed by some of the parties depicted in the movie), it's a period piece that breaks no great new ground, but neither does it terribly embarrass itself.
The film opens in Tel Aviv in 1973, in a family bar/illegal gambling den that's a haven for all sorts of seedy characters. Eventually ready for a change, Izek (Yehuda Levi) moves to Los Angeles while still a teenager, trades up on a number of business ventures assisted by a kindly real estate agent (Jeffrey Tambor), and eventually hooks up with his cousin Yoni (Joshua Bitton) to open an automotive repair shop. Izek even lands a wife, in the form of comely Aline (Delphine Chaneac).
Years pass, and Izek still dreams big, though — wanting to open an even bigger auto mall, and get into real estate and construction. His business is threatened when Izek unwittingly crosses a hotheaded mobster (James Caan), and shortly after that situation resolves itself further temptation arrives via a recently paroled cousin, Levi (Oded Fehr), who is all too eager to return to a life of crime. Against this turbulent backdrop, Izek must try to juggle his outsize ambitions while also deciding how married he is to his moral compass.
Directed by Ellie Kanner-Zuckerman, For the Love of Money leans fairly heavily on its performers to make something out of the material, cycling through a bunch of similarly temperamental, two-dimensional, mid-level mob-type villains, kind of like a Nintendo videogame circa 1991. Throwing money at expensive music cues ("Spirit in the Sky," "Magic Carpet Ride" and "Cult of Personality," among many others) and trading in fancy stock footage to flavor the proceedings and mark/pass the time, the movie works more on almost academic level rather than an emotional one — as a thumbnail, period piece sketch of small business appetite and its intersection with gotta-get-mine criminal intent.
Penned by Jenna Mattison, For the Love of Money features familiar characters doing familiar things, and even when crisis pops up it's more apt to be tamped down or smoothed over by coincidence than any great action by its protagonist. It's not that the movie is aggressively bad, it's that its presentation too often feels reductive. Males bond by doing the hearty shoulder-clasp thing, a slow-motion automobile hit is set to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," and threats of grand bodily harm are conveyed in the absence of repayment. Viewers have traveled this road of criminal menace before, only this time it's peppered with more exclamations of "L'chaim!" For more information on the movie, click here to visit its website