Richard W. Haines never ceases to amaze me with his rapid metamorphosis between film projects, and like the late Hunter S. Thompson on a drug induced mission, we never know quite what to expect. This time Haines tackles a satirical political heist thriller in what is the most daringly complex plot he has worked with and only a filmmaker with complete sovereignty can make such a product without succumbing to the kowtows of mainstream films.
“Soft Money” has possibly one of the best openings out of all of Haines’ previous films. The film begins with an advertisement for John Prescott (Patrick Flynne), a campaigning candidate for The Populist Party. Adam West played the Senator Prescott character in another Haines film Run for Cover and this would be the first of his films to use a re-occurring character. Flynne totally embodies the quintessential, seemingly caring politician and could maybe have a shot at running for senate in the real world of politics based on his performance here. This opening perfectly personifies any genuine TV-spots that run during any real election. There is one thing that I feel is lacking creativity in most motion pictures in this day and age and that is credit sequences. They are mostly uninspired and to me they are a vital part of any film in more ways than to simply tell us who was involved with the project. “Soft Money” has one of the most original and coolest credit sequences I have seen in recent years which sets up the introductory scene that follows and introduces our three main characters.
Valerie Casey (Jennifer Horng) is a cat burglar who makes petty scores and is an expert at pick pocketing. Deke Sanders (Postell Pringle), who got screwed playing by the rules, is now an industrial thief and dealer. Jay Bannon (Hector A. Garcia) is a failed actor turned high priced art thief, who uses his acting skills to take down scores. These three professional thieves operate individually until all three are kidnapped and taken to a wealthy businessman by the name of Rhodes (Vic River). After catching each of them in the middle of their respective scores red-handed, Rhodes hires them to rob his own bank which contains one million dollars in a safety deposit box. They really only have one option because if they refuse, Rhodes will have them all thrown in jail immediately.
The bank heist seemingly runs without a hitch, until the trio discovers their end of the score was paid to them with counterfeit money and that Rhodes is financing Senator John Prescott’s campaign, keeping all of his own stolen cash and using it as soft money.
This is the best cast Haines has ever worked with, who all appear to be very comfortable in their roles. I will make a bold prediction now and say that a large percentage of the lead actors will make a grand impression based on their talent exhibited in “Soft Money”. Specifically, the coolly composed Postell Pringle, the exuberant Hector A. Garcia, the alluring Jennifer Horng and the furtive Vic River.
It is a political heist film that takes a highly complicated plot, yet executes it in an uncomplicated style, hence making the film believable on many levels. It only seems far-fetched until your minds start to grow suspicious at any variety of the shady, under the table doings of any number of real politicians. Haines has made a political film that is neutral and doesn’t forcibly preach any secret agenda, it fundamentally tells an entertaining little yarn.
If only America was governed in the same manner as a Richard W. Haines film is, then maybe it would be a more honest environment. This film is likely to become Haines’ biggest success to date as it is a succinct, punchy, witty, fast paced cinematic triumph which achieves so much more than its low-budget would have allowed it to do on paper. Razor-sharp writing that could easily take an eye out.
The contemporary rock score flawlessly complements the film as it wholly completes the overall self-styled kinetic energy that the entire film possesses, ideally going hand-in-hand with one another. An original take on the heist genre, throwing thieves and politicians into a spin, thus creating a realer reality. This film makes you realize that any politicians in office are merely puppets having their strings pulled by smarter and craftier people.
There are also a few subtle references to other Richard W. Haines films such as “Run for Cover” and Unsavory Characters, which are cleverly made within the plot setting of this film. This is also the first Haines film that does not contain one shred of violence, only the threat of violence. A film of so much solidity that not even The IRA could blow it apart. “Soft Money” is destined to become a cult favorite.