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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 05.13.16] Albania thriller crime

Year: 2015
Directors: Malik Bader
Writers: Nickola Shreli
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Christopher Webster
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

In Cash Only, an Albanian-American landlord managing a rundown apartment complex full of free loading tenants, tries desperately to dig himself out of financial trouble only to find himself worse off at every turn. That's the plot of Malik Bader's crime thriller Cash Only in a nutshell, but it doesn't come close to capturing how textured and complex the film is.

Bader took home top honors at Fantasia when Cash Only won him the prestigious "Best Director" award and I can see why the film stood out. It offers all the visceral thrills you want from a genre film of this kind, while also boasting a confident direct aesthetic, local Detroit flavour, and one of the more interesting and morally complex characters in recent memory. Imagine a blend of Blue Ruin and Refn's Pusher and you'll start to get a sense of what you're in for here.

Cash Only is the brainchild of actor Nickola Shreli who plays Elvis Martini and who also wrote the screenplay. Shreli portrays Elvis as a man whose internal world is as convoluted and desperate as his external struggles. He is a loving father and well known member of the community with a troubled past that haunts him daily. He is also a man willing to do whatever needs to be done to make ends meet, which often blinds him to what's at stake and how his actions could result in bad things. It's easily one of the best performances I've seen all year - not showy, but understated and full of gritty verisimilitude.

That sense of reality carries over to every other aspect of the film including the finale's eventual brutality and the visual style, which is only accentuated by the locations where the film was shot. Detroit has become a very popular place to make movies that reflect the desperate state of many Americans and in Cash Only it's the perfect backdrop.

Cash Only knocked me back in my seat even as it had me on the edge of it. A gritty thriller with a gripping story and a lead actor playing a complex character dealing with realistic stakes. More please!

Cash Only is out now on VOD and in Theatres.

Recommended Release: Cash Only

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MichaelRAllen (5 years ago) Reply

A more amoral character has never been created. With a friend like Elvis, who needs enemies?

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