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Saturday, December 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 45.0° F  Light Rain
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Where the Money Is
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Paul Newman must be tired of critics reviewing his age instead of his performances. Or maybe he's just tired. At 75, the guy's certainly earned a rest, and yet he keeps popping up every year or so, often as an old codger who's still got a little fire going in those dying embers. In Where the Money Is, Newman's a bank robber who's faked a stroke in order to get transferred from a prison into a nursing home, and when the movie opens it appears Father Time has finally caught up with him. Strapped in a wheelchair, a blanket wrapped around his legs, he sits there with his head pitched to one side, his mouth drooping and his hand curled like a claw. Is this what has become of Fast Eddie, we ask ourselves. Of Hud? Of Cool Hand Luke? Of Butch Cassidy?

Not for long. Linda Fiorentino plays a nurse who senses there's something going on behind those vacant blue eyes, and before you know it these two have planned a heist. Then the nurse's husband, played by Dermot Mulroney, gets added to the team. A caper comedy, Where the Money Is suggests that sometimes you need to rob a bank just to liven up your life a little bit, and what better way to go about it than to get some pointers from the guy who pulled off The Sting? I only wish the movie lived up to its modest expectations. The story came from E. Max Frye, who once handed Jonathan Demme Something Wild, but this script is a tame piece of work, something mild. The heist itself is like stealing candy from a baby who didn't want the candy anyway.

Director Marek Kanievska has spent the last decade or so doing TV commercials, and he tries to trick up the movie's predictable narrative with oblique camera angles and cameos by old people who are just so darn cute. But no one's been given anything to play, and Kanievska never gets the right comedic tone going; it's as if the movie itself suffered from tired blood. Even a scene where Fiorentino mounts Newman in his wheelchair, which might have been given a Russ Meyer-ish jiggle, has a weightiness that suggests Kanievska was afraid of offending Newman's dignity. But what of Fiorentino's dignity? The woman who prowled through The Last Seduction like a panther in heat is barely allowed to work up a sweat; she's been declawed.

Here's hoping Where the Money Is isn't Newman's swan song. If Kirk Douglas can keep working after his real stroke, surely Newman can keep working after his fake one, but he needs to find a script that builds on the movies he's made instead of robbing them blind.

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