Director: Malik Bader
Writer: Nikola Shreli
Elvis Martini (Shreli) is having what most would consider to be a rough go at life. He can't afford to pay his daughter's tuition, owes the local loan shark $10,000 and the bank is about to foreclose on his only source of income, a run-down apartment complex whose tenants can't seem to pay their rent. While never clearly stated it's obvious that Elvis has a soft spot for his disenfranchised residents.They take advantage of his relaxed nature and all but ignore him when he tries to collect rent.
The only source of joy in his crumbling life is the relationship he has with his 9 year old daughter. Sadly we don't see too much of her before Martini's desperate attempt at some quick cash causes a local gangster to kidnap her and demand a $25,000 ransom for her return.
Elvis is in no way a perfect man, in many ways he's not even a good one. The way he treats women and how he leaves his daughter unattended are a few of his many unlikable qualities. But we are shown an imperfect man who is trying. There is a grounded nature to this character that would have been focused-grouped to death in a larger studio film.
There is an understandably desperate nature to Shreli's performance that is subtle for this kind of indie crime drama. He feels utterly real and it came as no surprise that he was raised in the working class Albanian neighborhoods of Detroit. His parents were immigrants who came to Detroit during the auto boom of the 60's in search of the American dream. Director Malik Bader said about Shreli's performance "in my eyes he had been preparing for the film his entire adult life."
This is the type of film that benefits from a micro budget and an uncomfortably tight shooting schedule. CASH ONLY is designed as a time clock and we as the audience need to feel every minute as its passes. The uncomfortable look and overall feel of the film supports the narrative in ways that a higher budget may have tampered with. Then again this is a tightly written script executed by talented filmmakers and gifted cast members who probably could have achieved the same results with a little more comfort. But it works how it is, it really does.
CA$H ONLY will be available on VOD and in select theaters on May 13th