Beyond Fright review: CASH ONLY

Cash_Only_Theaterical_Poster“Bad things happen to bad people,” says one of the tenants in director Malik Bader’s CASH ONLY, a tense thriller that explores both social commentary and what would you do scenarios. Bader’s film offers a glimpse into the Albanian-American community in Detroit, Michigan from the eyes of landlord Elvis Martini (Nickola Shreli, who also wrote the screenplay). Elvis is a single father whose wife accidentally died in a house fire. Not only emotionally distraught, Elvis has to fight off the bank from foreclosing his apartment building where tenants are behind rent and shrug him off when it comes to paying up. On top of that, there’s the loan shark he owes thousands to and a daughter who stays home to play retro video games all day due being unable to afford school.

All these problems lead Elvis to desperate measures as he finally evicts one of his tenants while she’s gone. While cleaning out her belongings, he finds that she left her son alone and a large sum of cash. He takes the cash to pay off some of his own debt, but when she returns, doesn’t realize he just got himself into a deep pile of shit by taking that money.

Too much has already been said about CASH ONLY, but the shift the movie makes won’t be spoiled and begs to be experienced. Utilizing a community that’s not so often explored and maybe some are unaware of in Detroit makes it that much more interesting, featuring natural dialogue and interactions that one might observe in public. There are subtle messages integrated throughout involving the American Dream and what it might mean to immigrants, as they make up most of the cast. Both current and potential tenants are fascinating to watch as each are made up of different backgrounds and who would be naïve enough to pay cash down on an apartment that’s not too promising. What’s to be applauded is that CASH ONLY demands your attention and thoughts on the underlying themes by engaging the audience in a riveting storyline that’s character based.

Elvis isn’t making the best decisions in life, but we are rooting for him. We want him to succeed even if we know there’s no happy ending to this. He has gone in way too deep to get out, but that small light at the end of the tunnel is enough to push through. There’s something devastating about the way he keeps his dead wife’s phone on so his daughter can call her phone and leave voicemails as if she were around to listen. He is also evil in the fact that he takes money from people who believe they’re getting a roof over their head, but he’s just collecting the cash to get out of his own trouble. His problems have escalated, but these are what make him human. There’s going to be viewers who relate to Elvis, maybe falling into a hole that they can’t get out of. Maybe it’s the immense financial burden that many Americans find themselves in every single day. There could be a link to conflicts immigrants face in not being taken seriously when trying to control a business or simply conduct everyday life.

Regardless of how you view CASH ONLY, there’s no mistaking it deserves to be watched. It’s a story not too often told and is both entertaining and heartbreaking to watch.


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