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Where the Story Isn't

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2000

   


    'Where the Money Is' Paul Newman plays a thieving con artist in "Where the Money Is." (Universal)
Linda Fiorentino in a nurse's uniform.

That's the good news.

The sweet-tart sweetheart never looked so bad-girl good as she does in the institutional whites she wears in "Where the Money Is," a crime caper about a nursing-home siren tempted by the lure of larceny when a stroke-paralyzed bank robber (Paul Newman) comes under her care.

The bad news? The story, which rumbles along like an unattended wheelchair on a gently sloping sidewalk. It's not a question of where it's going or when it's going to get there, but whether it'll maybe, just maybe, jump the curb on the way down and do some real damage.

You can't blame Fiorentino, who as naughty nurse Carol burns holes in the celluloid with every slatternly, smoldering glance she shoots our way. And you can't really blame Newman, who, in his role as Henry the human legume, has never been more slyly commanding. That's because Henry's not really a vegetable after all. Having faked a stroke in order to get transferred from prison to the nursing home, Henry slips out at night to recover his stash, only to discover that his late partner's son won't cough up the dough.

Meanwhile, Carol has caught on to his drooling deception and blackmails her patient into cutting her in on a new job.

Most of the film's comic tension occurs when Carol, wise to Henry's con, tries to get him to drop the stoic gimp act, a technique he has perfected behind bars through years of self-hypnosis and tantric Buddhism. One great scene has Carol performing a highly untherapeutic lap dance as Henry sits like a sack of soggy laundry. (Now that's acting!) Once his cover is blown, though, there isn't much juice left to the drama.

Of course, the heist (robbing an armored car) turns out to be a three-man job – for no other reason than that the writers, E. Max Frye, Topper Lilien and Carroll Cartwright, need to introduce a weak link in the chain. That would be Carol's husband Wayne (Dermot Mulroney), a good-lookin', good-for-nothin' good ol' boy who might as well wear a sign saying, "I'm going to muck up the whole thing. I just haven't figured out how yet."

Director Marek Kanievska ("Another Country") is at least sensitive to character development, because in the end that's about all that this thin gruel has going for it. Without flash and effects, he does his level best to shine the spotlight on the stars where it belongs and not on the film's numerous logical inconsistencies.

With folks as charismatic as Fiorentino and Newman along for the ride, you know you're going to wind up rooting for the so-bad-they're-good guys no matter where they go, just like you did in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting," tales so well told it hardly even mattered whether their heroes went out in a blaze of glory or gunfire.

A pair of diamonds this sparkling deserves a better setting, not a box of stale Crackerjack.

WHERE THE MONEY IS (PG-13, 89 minutes) – Contains vaguely sexual situations (it's got Linda Fiorentino, after all) and two-alarm obscenities.

 

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


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