Dreadful title aside – somehow, it’s not a bawdy period drama – Pinching Penny actually begins rather well. Alex (Steven Molony) is addicted to consumerism. It’s not the cheapest habit, so Alex robs houses with his mate Murphy (quite what’s motivating him to stick around is never really made clear). However, when they try to rob Teddi – who’s in her pants, which is irksome even before you find out that she’s the director’s sister – she not only bests them but also gets them involved in a little light kidnapping.
Unfortunately, things get a little incoherent from here, and what started as an interesting idea rapidly descends into a tired retread of the same, soporific Lock Stock template that we thought (hoped) everyone had stopped making by now; strange, as the setting and most of the cast and crew are American. Worse is the swearing – constant, adolescent and unnecessary – and the aforementioned semi-nudity, a clear grab for the post-pub crowd. It’s all jarring, and robs Pinching Penny of its one real weapon: likeability.
Because there are things that will endear you to Pinching Penny. Director Dan Glaser has a real eye for colour, and the snappy editing and inventive camera work leave some sequences happily reminiscent of the high energy crime flicks France kept pumping out in the 90’s. The cast have real chemistry, even if some of their deliveries are questionable at best. And the script is not bereft of wit or invention, especially as events get a little Twin Peaks in the final forty five minutes. But if you’ve bought a nice car, you shouldn’t spray profanity all over it and mount a giant pair of tits on the bonnet.
It’s a real shame, because the impressively young cast and crew have put a lot into this. 22 year old director Dan Glaser took part in a two month medical study to help raise funds. The two leads spoke exclusively in their character’s accents for the entire shoot, which is all the more heartbreaking because their accents are basically indecipherable. Steven Moloney was so method that he actually started dreaming in character, and lost over seven pounds.
A misfire, then. But if everyone involved learns their lesson from this misadventure, they could produce an interesting, worthwhile follow up. Maybe a bawdy period drama?