‘Pinching Penny’ Review

Americans are obsessed with shopping. We’re fixated on having all the newest things. Fueled by marketing, we’re happy rush out to grab anything the TV tells us to. As Madonna once put it, we are indeed living in a material world. But, at what point does this become a problem? How does one addiction really differ from another?

Pinching Penny tells the story of Alex, who suffers from oniomania (a compulsive shopping disorder). Being a petty thief, Alex fuels his obsession by robbing houses. However, as his addiction worsens, Alex is forced to go to greater lengths to feed it. Sliding deeper into depravity, he soon finds himself in a world of drug dealing, kidnapping and murder. The question arises: Will Alex free himself before his addiction becomes his demise?

Pinching Penny is an interesting debut film from writer/director Dan Glaser. It’s a genre film that sets out to grab you by the balls and drag you along for one wild ride. Drawing inspiration from filmmakers such as Guy Ritchie, Glaser definitely creates a stylish and evolving crime caper with Pinching Penny. Being somewhat lighthearted and humorous to begin with, the movie becomes darker the further Alex sinks into that hole. Starting with a couple of burglary mishaps, Alex and his friend Murray soon find themselves entangled with Terri. She serves as a catalyst that drives Alex down this dark path, meanwhile serving as a distraction for Murray. Soon enough, Murray finds himself as nothing more than her boy toy, while Alex finds himself in a heap of shit.

From the beginning, you know you’re in for an interesting ride as Alex’s monologue sets the tone for the film. From this moment, you know Glaser has potential to be a pretty good writer. Given time to polish his craft, he could become one of those good dialogue writers like Guy Ritchie or even Quentin Tarantino. Even the title simultaneously ironic and indicative title show some creative writing skills. The writing, however, isn’t without fault. In general, the plot is pretty standard fare for a genre film such as this, though, it does provide for an interesting ride. Glaser has stated that the script seemed to evolve during production of the film. This is evident. There are times when it can get a bit sloppy, with parts of it seeming forced. Most of that seems to center around the odd choice of oniomania as a plot device. More on that later.

Overall, though, the writing is decent enough for a genre film, but it’s definitely the element which held the movie back, I think. The cinematography was very nice as well, especially for such a low budget movie. It did a great job of adding to the stylishness of the movie (though I’m still wondering what the purpose of the 10 or so minutes of black and white was for). The directing was also solid. Glaser shows a knack from helming a film. It seems, however, he may have just been a bit overwhelmed with so many roles in the production of Pinching Penny. It’s kinda like that old saying: A jack of all trades, but a master of none. This lack of “focus” does spill over onto the screen.

The acting was good here, though, and just helped to provide more entertainment. Steven Molony is great in the lead role of Alex. His gritty performance really holds the movie together. The kid shows a lot of promise here. If given the opportunity and time, it could be interesting to see where his career goes. One good role and he could prove to be something of a breakout star in the future. Or, at the very least, one of those respectable mainstays in the indie world. Timothy Meyer does well playing Murray bringing a certain level of charm and humor to the movie. Though, as the movie progresses, we seem to get less and less of him. Dan’s sister Ginny Glaser plays the role of femme fatale Teddi and does a convincingly competent job with the role. Her edginess and somewhat dry humor make for a great portrayal of the role. Meanwhile, Lauren Wertz plays the role of Penny well, adding a level of humanity among these disturbed characters. The rest of the cast is hit or miss. Some being very amateurish, while some being competent enough.

One of my problems, though, was that the main characters didn’t seem fleshed out enough. Again, this can go back to the writing and seemingly lack of focus. Just didn’t feel like you got to know these people. As such, I never became sympathetic towards them. As an example, we’re never given enough insight into Alex’s “disorder”. We have a couple scenes which give a brief glimpse at it, but that’s it. We never truly understand Alex’s struggle. Essentially, the oniomania is just a generic plot device. While it was used to be unique, the lack of focus on the disorder really made it generic to the point that it could have easily been substituted with something like a drug addiction or gambling addiction and we still would have got the same movie for the most part. Of course, maybe that’s the genius of it. Unintentionally showing that addiction to shopping is no different than addiction to drugs or anything else.

All in all, despite being a bit generic and sloppy, Pinching Penny is a fun stylish ride and does well enough as a genre film. Glaser and Molony show some definite promise. While the movie isn’t as intelligent or inspiring as it would hope to be, it still entertains. If you’re a fan of such movies as Snatch, Run Lola Run, Trainspotting, etc then this could be worth a rental one night when you’re looking for something new to watch. Don’t expect such greatness as those films, but it should provide a couple hours of entertainment for those that really enjoy those types of movies.


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