Sept 99: The Money Shot

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by Margretta Browne
Written by: Matt Mailer
Directed by: Matt Mailer
Produced by: Daniel Bigeland, Michael Mailer
Dir. of Photography: Elia Lyssy
Editor: James Cozza
Cast: Stephen Lang, Tamara Tunie, Arsha Waks, Robert Alexander, Vincent Laressa

The Money Shot is one of those unique and quirky films that leaves you and your friends talking for hours afterwards about how creative it was. It is a film about a filmmaker making a documentary of New York City street kids. As the movie begins, one of the first things you notice is the shaky and blurry camera work. An immediate sigh comes out as you dread the thought of watching amateur camera work for the next hour. Once you're over that, you begin to take interest in the subject of the movie.

It begins as a documentary about "street kids". You're introduced to the expected cast of young girls wearing too much make-up and dabbling in prostitution and drugs. Next, the young angry males cursing, selling drugs, and doing violent acts. Then, surprise! The camera is put down, shut off, and you are now watching a discussion between three filmmakers with complete visual clarity. A bit of confusion sets in as you try to decipher whether or not these are really filmmakers talking about the footage they just shot, or actors playing the roles of filmmakers. Is this a documentary about the making of a documentary, or merely an entirely fictitious story?


The director of the documentary, Quinn, played by Stephen Lang crosses the line between being an outside observer and a player in his own documentary. His confusion and interference step in when he allows himself to become intimately involved with the pretty Rayna, his main subject, played by Arsha Waks. Waks is a naive young girl looking for reassurance and love in all the wrong places and who has been ultimately sucked up by the streets.

While following Rayna through New York City, Quinn and his crew meet Toby (Robert Alexander) and Eddie (Vincent Laressa), two angry males easily capable of violence. Each plays a different role in Rayna's life. Toby seems to truly care for her in a brotherly way and Eddie is your typical pimp who tells her what she needs to hear so she will go in the streets and make money for him. It is when Quinn succumbs to his desires for the pretty young Rayna and upsets the whole balance of her world that everyone's life around him spirals tragically downward beyond reach.


Stephen Lang does an excellent job of depicting the self-motivated director Quinn who allows his personal life to become intertwined with his documentary subjects. His unwarranted intrusion into their world is quite upsetting and you can't help but think he deserves a tragic ending as well.

Arsha Waks portrays a believable innocence on film as Rayna. She easily entangles you into her tragic world which is unseen by her. One of the best scenes in the film is when she is describing for Quinn on his film, her life in the future and the kind of man she would like to marry. Her naivete about reality and life comes across so strong, it provides a perfectly timed comic relief for the audience for what in general, is a disturbingly tragic film. Keep an eye out for this fresh new actress. I would be surprised if I didn't see more of her in the future.

Tamara Tunie, Robert Alexander, and Vincent Laressa provide a strong supporting cast. Tamara Tunie, as Michelle, Quinn's partner and producer, helps give depth to the sinking of Quinn's character. She validates the viewers' thinking that Quinn has possibly gone beyond being redeemable. Alexander and Laressa hold their own as the violent offspring of the streets. They definitely help to give the ever-impending feeling of doom to this film.



The Money Shot presents a creative edge not commonly seen. Once the frame story is set, you are completely engrossed in the plot. Couple that with the excellent directing and acting of the film, and you have a definite must see. Make sure there is a coffee shop nearby, you are going to want to discuss this one.


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