The Millionaire Tour (2012)
Director: Inon Shampanier
Written by Inon and Natalie Shampanier
This direct-to-internet movie is a bit obscure, but it can be found on Hulu and perhaps other video streaming sites. Having never heard of the film or anyone associated with it, my expectations were not especially high. However, it turned out to be a surprisingly well-crafted and well-acted twisty suspense thriller, much better than not only the average streaming movie but the average Hollywood paint-by-numbers thriller as well.
The premise is simple, with a cast so small that it could almost have been a stage play -if it weren’t for the fact that it mostly takes place in a moving vehicle. It stars Jordan Belfi as Greg, a businessman who, just getting off a plane, is offered a ride by a cab driver named Sammy (Rick Gomez). Before they even leave the parking lot, the taxi hits a young woman. She is not badly hurt so she and her boyfriend arrange to share the taxi with Greg, which, naturally, proves to be a big mistake.
The young couple, Billy (Agnes Bruckner) and Casper (Dominic Monaghan) are a rough looking and talking pair who introduce the topic of The Millionaire Tour -a scheme where a wealthy victim is forced at gunpoint to drive from one ATM to another, withdrawing the maximum amount until all of his cards are maxed out. As we can expect, this turns out to be more than a hypothetical story when Casper pulls a gun and takes command of the taxi.
The film, which starts out as a suspenseful crime drama turns more complex when it’s revealed that Greg was not chosen at random. He is, according to Casper, a well known con artist who has allegedly ripped off Casper’s sinister boss The Roman. We are soon left to wonder if Greg is really who he claims to be (the victim of mistaken identity) or a true criminal mastermind. There is also the question of Sammy who, we learn early on, has a taxi license with someone else’s name on it. There is even the obligatory reference to Taxi Driver with Sammy uttering the familiar line, “You talkin’ to me?” Gomez actually resembles the young Robert DeNiro, which may or may not be coincidental as far as his being cast in this film.
Many of the best moments in the movie are small scenes that focus on tense dialogue or situations that can play out in a number of ways. For example, when Casper leads Greg into a crowded store to cash a check, there is a drawn out conversation with the naive salesgirl while we can practically hear Greg thinking about his options.
If you’ve seen quite a few suspenseful, noirish thrillers -especially the kind that became popular in the 1990s- you will not be too shocked by how things turn out. The real quality of The Millionaire Tour is in the quality of the acting, script and dialogue. Monaghan as Casper exudes the right amount of menace as a volatile thug. Billy is his confused and conflicted partner and/or girlfriend. Belfi does a masterful job at making Greg (if that’s who he really is) a resourceful guy who seems almost too adept at thinking on his feet. Gomez remains an enigma as the apparently fatalistic driver.
It’s always a nice surprise to find an impeccably created film of this type. Even if you can mostly guess where it’s headed, in this case the ride is enjoyable enough that it doesn’t really matter. Hopefully, we will see more from this talented crew in the future.