It’s been a while since I watched a straight-up crime drama and this definitely fits the proverbial bill in spades while also implicitly annoying and frustrating me on how unfortunate it turned out to be. In Baby Money (2021), pregnant stripper Minny (Danay Garcia) is near the end of her pregnancy and trying desperately to obtain money for her unborn child. In a hurried decision, she decides to be the getaway driver for her level-headed but in over his head boyfriend Gil (Michael Drayer), who gets in on a lucrative robbery with unhinged psycho Tony (Travis Hammer). Naturally the badly planned heist goes horribly awry, and people end up dead. Now, while unknowingly involving Minny’s unsuspecting and equally level-headed nurse, Heidi (Taja Simpson) and her disabled son, Chris (Vernon Taylor III), the trio try to avoid getting arrested by cops or murdered by their impatient employers. A long, dangerous, and violent night ensues.
Even though this story contains some tension, suspense, and conveys the bright lights, sounds, and somewhat etherealness of the night in the city, unfortunately the film suffers from a ton of missed opportunities at catapulting this tale into some Steven Soderbergh, Dan Gilroy, or Michael Mann territory. Even jolting a bit of energy into it like your average Edgar Wright film. I must admit my mind ventured to Baby Driver (2017) a few times while watching this, especially during the beginning. Only because I’d rather watch that because this is a discrepancy on the “Baby” name. There’s an animated intro during the opening credits that’s rather surprising and full of vibrancy. It gave an idea that the rest of the feature will match that same unpredictability and welcoming energy. It does not. You get the sense that because of the film’s subject, there’s going to be plenty of pithy and witty dialogue. There is not. And because of the fact that this film is apart of the Fantasia Film Festival, there’s at least going to be eerie elements and graphic violence. Nothing eerie and while the violence is strong….far from graphic. This definitely suffers from its directors Luc Walpoth and Mikhael Bassilli having only worked on film shorts and being actors in previous projects. I dare say, they just weren’t quite ready for a full-length feature.
The real tragedy is the cast being rather good and capable. There’s some legitimate emotion, real stakes, and the players put their talents into the roles, but I dare say the script completely betrays them, so much so you want to put them in a completely different film so they can receive a second chance at something worthy of their competency. It’s a shame to see them struggle to break free of the banal and predictable screenplay (also done by Bassilli), but it just doesn’t quite work. Again, another unfortunate shame.
In a small sliver of interest, it was a treat seeing Garcia somewhat leading her own film, even a bit bittersweet because she is so damn underrated it sucks she doesn’t get more opportunities. She’s one of the best actors on Fear the Walking Dead (2015) and deserves to stretch her legs a bit in other roles. Also Hammer and Simpson made me further invested than I thought I would be because like I mentioned before, they were truly trying to bust out from the uneventful script. So I hope to see more of them in the future because they deserve something substantial.
All in all, that’s it. That’s really it. There’s not much to state or discuss beyond what I’ve discussed. Maybe others can find something more to grab onto with this film but as it stands, just wildly disappointing. In fact, I dare say, it’s far more enjoyable to simply list films with the word “Baby” in the title. Yep. Not even watching them, just naming them. And yes, this baby…doesn’t count.
Baby Money (2021) is playing as part of the Fantasia Festival – https://fantasiafestival.com/fr/film/baby-money
Review written by Marcus Wilturner