While the prospect of a summer tentpole like Tenet or Mulan coming out this year seems like an increasingly unlikely proposition, cinema in 2020 isn’t dead: We can always rely on a glorious, constantly growing trash heap of VOD releases. On-demand releases aren’t all necessarily bad—in fact, some studios have sent some destined-for-theaters films down the VOD route instead of pushing them to come out in 2021; shout-out Scoob!—but more often than not they can be under-the-radar disasterpieces. Enter Money Plane.
With the tagline “An explosive casino heist in the sky,” Money Plane is exactly what it sounds like: a tired collection of action-movie tropes featuring an inspired group of washed actors just here for the check. (We love you, Thomas Jane and Denise Richards.) Have you ever wanted to see Kelsey Grammer smoke a cigar and fire rounds from an AK-47 like a mid-tier Grand Theft Auto villain? Spoiler alert:
I say this with the utmost endearment: Money Plane is terrible. You need only to look at this horrendously Photoshopped poster or peruse the film’s run time (it’s 82 minutes with credits!) to know how aggressively everyone from the director on down phoned this bad boy in. Money Plane is the filmmaking equivalent of a college senior knowing he needs a C- to graduate and doing the bare minimum to get there. It’s so lazily written that most of the confounding storytelling choices are more interesting than what’s happening on the screen. That’s pretty hard to accomplish when your movie is about an attempt to rob a flying casino of over $1 billion in cryptocurrency led by WWE’s Edge.
Now, you could spend money to rent Money Plane right now—I won’t judge; I’ve paid to see The Room multiple times. But on the off-chance you don’t want your hard-earned cash going to a premise that sounds like something your 10-year-old nephew came up with after pounding a few Mountain Dews, you could just read my nine most pressing questions about Money Plane, Grammer’s heat check, and what constitutes great art.
Why is the audience not allowed to know where anything is located?
Money Plane begins with an elite description: “Art Museum.” What kind of art museum, you might wonder? Where is this place? Why does it look like a dinky warehouse and not a place where you store artwork valued at millions of dollars? These mysteries are never resolved, because suddenly we’re watching Jack Reese (WWE’s Edge) try to steal a painting worth $40 million from what looks like the Meatpacking District. He does not succeed, but he and his team escape the scene. (The painting was already missing, and they were compromised.)
This news does not please [Checks notes. Checks drink for pill residue.] Darius Emmanuel Grouch III (Grammer), the man who hired Jack’s team for the job and who is a kingpin of some sort. It appears that Jack—who has some kind of military background—racked up a huge gambling debt, which Grouch paid off, and is doing these elaborate heists to pay off his debts and keep his family safe from Grouch’s wrath. (His wife, who is seen for approximately three minutes of the film, is Denise Richards.) Since the art heist was a dud, Grouch offers Jack one more chance at redemption: Rob the infamous Money Plane of the criminal underworld for its billion-dollar crypto fortune, and he’ll be off the hook. Where is Money Plane’s Money Plane located? Sorry, that’s also classified as “undisclosed.”
I have no answer as to why we only get vague descriptions of locations: It’s not like Money Plane is a documentary about the Illuminati and the only way the film crew got to record everything was to keep the audience in the dark about where any of this takes place. (Right?) The place where the plane takes off is also known as “Money Plane Terminal,” which seems like a pretty clear tip to authorities who want to capture those responsible for a supposedly elusive underworld operation. It’s like a legit airport terminal and everything!
To be clear, stealing from the Money Plane is Jack’s “One Last Job”?
You fucking bet it is.
Does Darius Emmanuel Grouch III appreciate the arts?
This is a complicated one. While he calls Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock a “bunch of bitches” (!!!!), Grouch does appear to care about adding to his art collection. The piece in question, the one missing from the warehouse—sorry, “Art Museum”—is known as the Disturbing Duckling. Sure, Disturbing Duckling sounds like a nursery rhyme gone wrong, but it’s also worth so much damn money you could retire for life by selling it.
Clearly, Grouch understands the value of art—but he might not understand the art itself. My dude threatens to blow Jack’s brains out over an empty canvas, which he says would look just like a Pollock. (That’s not how action painting works.) All of which to say: I don’t think Grouch should be trusted on his word; he seems a bit unreliable. He also said you can bet on “a dude fucking an alligator” on the Money Plane.
Can you bet on a dude fucking an alligator on the Money Plane?
It’s entirely possible! Once Jack and his team infiltrate the Money Plane—it was surprisingly easy; they just parked the jet at “Money Plane Terminal”—we learn that the gambling aboard goes beyond your typical casino fare. The criminals with money to burn quickly transition from Texas Hold ’Em to actual Russian roulette (someone dies) to, eventually, “themed” betting events. These events include placing money on how long a man survives when put in a cage with a cobra and how quickly a kiddie pool filled with piranhas—just go with it—can tear another dude apart.
Technically, no alligators and humans attempted to copulate, but still: This is some extreme shit. I guess the orchestrators of the Money Plane are also human traffickers, since they just happen to have randomly kidnapped people fighting—and dying—against nature’s scariest predators. Given the theme of these “themed” events, though, I think it’s more likely that you’d see a human try to survive getting torn apart by an alligator, rather than trying to bone one.
This leads me to one of two possible theories: Darius Emmanuel Grouch III has some shaky Money Plane intel, or Kelsey Grammer flubbed the line by saying “fucking” instead of “fighting” and everyone on set was afraid to tell him that he messed up.
Why was the Money Plane designed by the same people who designed the Ramada Inn?
The Money Plane is billed as highly futuristic and super advanced—a Fort Knox for the sky. You would think that this plane would be decked out with cool gadgets and high-tech security, but you’d be wrong. It’s just a regular-ass plane with a poker table in the middle.
I’m a little bummed out. Even if the Money Plane didn’t have a Tupac hologram serving drinks or something, I expect a presentation that doesn’t scream, “Business conference after hours at the Ramada.”
Why did this movie enlist a WWE superstar to sit in a cockpit?
WWE stars turned actors are surefire bets to show up in a VOD release and kick copious amounts of ass. Fighting other people for an audience’s entertainment is their day job! Alas, with two exceptions—escaping the warehouse art museum and fighting one of the Money Plane’s pilots to take over the Money Plane—WWE’s Edge just … chills in a cockpit.
No, really, he spends like half the movie in the cockpit barking orders to his team and Skyping with Kelsey Grammer about how the heist is going. How the hell do you put The Edge in your movie and not let him spear a random henchman or suplex someone through a poker table? I’m not mad, Money Plane, I’m just disappointed.
Can drones hold pistols and fire them with lethal accuracy?
God bless Thomas Jane. My guy went from the instant classic Deep Blue Sea to starring in one of the best sci-fi shows of the century (watch The Expanse) to barely giving two shits popping up in Money Plane. As Harry, Jack’s best friend and godfather to his daughter, Jane’s biggest contribution to the plot is operating a drone to wield a pistol and shoot a bunch of nameless goons after Grouch tries to double-cross the team. All while drinking a beer.
I’ve done some dumb things with drones—I let a friend have one hover right over my (clothed) butt in college—but I wouldn’t trust anybody to use one to headshot people with the accuracy of John Wick.
Is this movie Frasier canon?
Yes, Niles was just offscreen looking for a Sauvignon Blanc.
When did Jack’s team become woke mercenaries?
To catch everyone up to speed: Grouch tried double-crossing Jack’s team while they were aboard the Money Plane. He also sabotaged their art heist, even though … they were going to get the painting for him. (Don’t overthink this.) Jack and his team gain the upper hand, thanks in part to Thomas Jane using a pistol attached to a drone to kill Grouch’s henchmen. But since Jack’s crew was still able to get the Money Plane’s billion dollars in crypto before learning of Grouch’s deception, Jack has an idea: “Let’s redistribute the wealth.” Huh?!?!
I’m thrilled that Money Plane would get the Bernie Sanders stamp of approval, but up until this point, there was no suggestion that this group of people who pull off heists for a living and have killed countless people had any interest in donating their stolen cryptocurrency to charitable organizations. It makes even less sense when they immediately pivot back to stealing for themselves. After a three-month time jump, Jack’s team eventually gets their hands on the infamous Disturbing Duckling—and because it was stolen, the price actually goes up even more. They sure as hell plan to pocket that cash.
In their mind, it’s suddenly important to redistribute wealth unless … it’s a bougie duck painting worth stealing and selling on the black market? Actually, the joke’s on me: I’m trying to have Money Plane make sense, instead of letting the stupid wash all over me. This is what Jack’s team swaps the duck painting with in Istanbul. I promise you this really happened in the movie.
If you wanted to see the dumbest possible version of the Ocean’s franchise with a bunch of bad guys who weren’t cool enough to make it on Con Air, then Money Plane is the right VOD movie for you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Disturbing Duckling to bid on.