A long friendship may mean nothing when too much money is involved, as the protagonists find in this excellent 2017 movie, Blood Money.
Indeed, for young Victor, Lynn, and Jeff, this opportunity was perfect for getting together after a long time since their childhood, while they were almost at the end of high school and about to start college.
Everything is off to the best possible start, with a few memories of the good old days by the campfire drinking a beer, as stage after stage, they trail the river in a dinghy.
However, old rivalries from the past come flooding back, and if groups of three rarely work well in the long run, even less succeeds when there are two guys in love with the same girl.
The tension becomes increasingly unbearable because Lynn was first with Victor, and now she is with Jeff, so she leaves the boys to argue by running to blow off steam.
That’s when he finds something incredible floating on the riverbank: four bags securely tied together with eight million dollars inside.
Jeff plays along out of love for her, albeit not too sure, while Victor, on the other hand, says he doesn’t want to know anything about it and leaves, intending to seek out the police.
Unfortunately, the boy runs into the same criminal who stole all that cash and threw it out of an airplane before crashing, then parachuting into the middle of the woods.
The three friends run into an interminable escape from the man, who has since killed a policeman and stolen his gun.
More than just the criminal, however, the two boys must beware of the lovely Lynn, made utterly insane and evil by the mirage of the eight million dollars.
A respected but little-understood director
Lucky McKee is a well-known and appreciated filmmaker on this site, thanks to his past and recent works.
In the past, I had recommended Kindred Spirits, praising its plot and art direction; or more recently, I had included Old Man among the best of 2022 cinema, honoring the unique vision of this horror film set all in one room only.
In 2017, Blood Money got a very different reception from both audiences and critics, almost as if everyone had joined in ridiculing the movie, ignoring the work’s visual, emotional, and narrative power.
Among the fiercest criticisms, many concerned the criminal played by John Cusack, often described as stupid and senseless besides being prone to grotesque behavior.
However, these criticisms miss the full depth of the script co-written by Jared Butler and Lars Norberg.
Indeed, the most negative character is undoubtedly the girl with the delightful face of Willa Fitzgerald, whose acting is masterful.
Her evolution from a sweet, innocent girl to a money-hungry monster is the beating heart of the plot. As the story progresses, she becomes more and more obsessed with wealth, eventually losing sight entirely of the importance of relationships with friends and boyfriends.
This young student has just lost her athletic scholarship, having seriously injured her knee, and is counting on the generosity of her wealthy boyfriend to continue her studies.
The moment she lays her hands on the money is chilling: her lips tighten, and her eyes grow misty as if in a distant dream, almost as if she has lost her humanity.
From then on, every word and gesture toward her friends is laden with hatred and contempt, even toward the same boyfriend who is no longer necessary to her as a financial livelihood.
The destructive power of money
Lucky McKee isolates these characters in the heart of this forest, just close to civilization. They sometimes clash like the drunks on the beach or the hapless policeman who tries to intervene.
As mentioned, John Cusack only seems like the villain, yet we often find him awkward and hesitant about what to do because he is not really evil.
Of course, he is not a model citizen, we are still talking about a thief, but even he is horrified at the psychopathic behavior of the beautiful Willa Fitzgerald.
After a long television career, albeit still a young one, the American actress finally made it to the movies; by 2022, she was in the excellent cast of The Goldfinch, a gripping (though perhaps too long and heavy) emotional drama with an artistic motif.
Here, she is the most crucial character, the center around which all the men in the story move, conditioning their decisions with choices from which there is no turning back.
The other two boys are also quite different from each other, starting with young Ellar Coltrane, the good and naive boy whose honest attitude only further irritates the girl.
Still, the ex-boyfriend absurdly dreams of reconciling with her, despite the apparent fact that she is with his friend Jacob Artist, the spoiled son of a wealthy family who wouldn’t even need all that money.
Temporary alliances continually arise between these characters, which then become clashes to death. While everyone is simply trying to get out of the damn woods alive, the girl is the only one willing to go back and retrieve one of the bags.
Unfortunately, this greed knows no bounds and will be the ultimate sentence when she could quickly settle with five million instead of eight.