Jurassic Park pointed out, by way of Jeff Goldblum, that just because you can do a thing does not mean you should. The democratization of independent film through digital photography, laptop editing, and crowdsourced funding has brought this object lesson to life in living color more than once.
Top Coat Cash is a vivid example of a film that does not need to exist. There are a lot of would-be filmmakers who suffer from delusions of Tarantino, countless pretenders to the throne throwing off poor imitations.
The plot, such as it is, features an MMA fighter, Johnny, who bets on himself in Vegas with a loan shark’s money and then loses. He returns home millions of dollars in debt and in danger from the gangsters he owes. He soon runs into people from his past, including a crew who offer to include him in increasingly violent bank heists.
This film obviously had some budget, but it falls short of saying anything new about gambling, dangerous risks, parenting, relationships, or going against all the odds to achieve greatness, though it seems to think it has touched on all of these. What it does tell us is that there is virtue in having someone involved who is experienced in the business enough to stop movies from coming to light that add no value.
“…Johnny, who bets on himself in Vegas with a loan shark’s money, and then loses…“
Top Coat Cash is filled with terrible conceits in the name of “changing it up” to contradict expectations. Director (and lead actor) David Tittone indulges in grotesque and pointless violence simply for the prurient glee of watching people get hurt. The acting is stiff and amateurish, the dialog is laughable, the violent action is the only place where the film seems comfortable.
Violence can be necessary to a story and inform the narrative. Novelist Cormac McCarthy writes of “sacred violence” crucial to the texture of specific times and places, and there is definitely a case to be made for horrific violence when it helps us understand and process. Without death, life has less worth. However, there’s nothing sacred here, no conclusion is drawn, no characters grow or change, nothing happens in the course of the tale to make it worth enduring these moments with the characters or care about their situations. Worse, the film warps senseless sadism into yet more on-screen misogyny: in this case, a dickless asshole drags a woman across the floor by her hair. Enough.
This has all been done before, better, and with a point. Hard pass.
Top Coat Cash (2018) Directed by David Tittone. Written by David Tittone, David Torre. Starring David Tittone, Jason Turner, Rich Zvosec.
3 out of 10