It’s Oscar season and the film on everyone’s mind is Michel Hazanavicius’ directorial triumph The Artist (2011), starring Jean Dujardin in the lead role. The exciting buzz around Dujardin may explain the delayed DVD release date of Éric Besnard’s Cash, which originally hit cinemas in 2008 and also featured Dujardin as the lead, but doesn’t exhibit his ability to its full potential.
Quick-handed con artist Cash (Dujardin) appears to be all about the short game – get in, grab the cash and make a swift exit. Money forgery keeps his beautiful fiancee Garance (Alice Taglioni) in roses and (giant) stuffed animals but doesn’t offer any consolation when his brother is murdered. Cash and his fake note-carrying accomplices (François and Léa, played by François Berléand and Caroline Proust) swear revenge and team up with rival con man Maxime (Jean Reno) and his outfit in a diamond heist, but not before bent cop Julia (Valeria Golino) arrives with incriminating photos demanding a cut of the takings.
For a fairly complicated plot that’s littered with twists, it’s surprising just how familiar Cash is – any fan of Steven Soderberg’s Ocean’s trilogy will recognise numerous similarities to the point where many have dubbed it the French equivalent. Writer and director Éric Besnard employs many of the same techniques in his directing including sliding split-screens and flashbacks, vibrant cinematography and glamorous settings – even the original music design by Jean-Michel Bernard is anything but.
Less well-known at the time, Dujardin is perfectly cast as charming double-bluffer Cash, whose likeable manner ensures he will be underestimated. Reno is too big and too clever for this movie however, and fails to shine, whilst Irish actor Ciarán Hinds is thrown in for good measure, yet is given no time to impress. The script can also be a little crass and doesn’t always fit with the glossy production values.
Besnard’s Cash is ultimately a fun and fast-paced French caper that thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously. Whenever the plot lags, it takes another turn to reset the frivolity and recapture the audience’s desire to discover who is actually conning whom. The under-developed characters are acceptable in the movie’s shallow context and the quality production and beautiful setting in Côte d’Azur act as a camouflage for the film’s many flaws.