Things I Do For Money could be compared to 2004’s You Got Served, which is a movie I thought I wouldn’t be referencing 16 years later. Yet, here we are.
Both movies are platforms for talented stars, a new stage for them to perform on – thinly veiled by an indifferent plot-driven story. In You Got Served, the hiphop group B2K showcased their poppin’ and lockin’ dance skills. In Things I Do For Money, cellist brothers Theodor and Maximilian Aoki showcase their amazing musical abilities through the film’s outstanding original score, but also through their leading performances as conflicting musician siblings. The movie marks the acting debut of the Aokis and while they’re a little stiff on camera, they compensate with their confidence they exude while playing. They’re marvellous to watch in their element.
The Aokis play Eli and Nick Yaguchi, teens with a typical dynamic (one kid is book smart, the other is street smart) who are reeled into an art heist after Nick becomes too involved with local criminals. Their craft for playing music catches the eye of a mob boss who requires their assistance as a distraction during a sting targeted on an art piece with a multimillion dollar price tag.
Directed by Warren P. Sonoda, Things I Do For Money isn’t my favourite film from the Japanese-Canadian filmmaker. While the movie works in small doses (such as the breathtaking musical segments and the overall compatibility between the Aokis), the film is made up of stock qualities; from the villainous heavy-hitters, to awkward chats between Eli and his love interest with an aspiring figure skater (Laura played by another amateur actor, Yodit Tewoderos), to the guaranteed feel-good theme of family loyalty. A film is usually bound to have a few clichés, but the narrative foundation in Things I Do For Money’s screenplay (written by Sonoda and Gary Nolan) uses too many to hold itself steady. In this case, it’s a failsafe for Sonoda, whose efficient direction still perseveres with decent results. But as a trade, it prevents the movie from being a true original in a catalogue that includes Cooper’s Camera, Swearnet: The Movie, Servitude, and The Masked Saint.
But, how about another hand for Theodor and Maximilian Aoki? They’re major stars in a minor vehicle and, with only one movie under their belt, they show they have a gift for magnetic resonance.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie