A simple thriller that adheres to the mindset that not all genre efforts have to hone complicated narratives, Baby Money adjusts the home invasion subgenre enough for its familiarities to not feel habitual.
The “baby money” of the title is the currency Minny (Danay Garcia) and her boyfriend, Gil (Michael Drayer), are in need of when she falls unexpectedly pregnant. It’s not the great news the couple are after, and they’re hardly financially stable, but they’re committing to it nonetheless. So what exactly do a cash-strapped couple do with a baby on the way? Plan a robbery, of course!
Alongside the fellow criminally-minded duo of Tony and Dom (Travis Hammer and Joey Kern), the quartet plan a break-in – Minny stands aside as the getaway driver – but, as is tradition with films of this ilk, it goes violently wrong, ultimately separating them in the throws of panic.
It’s in this separation that Mikhael Bassilli‘s film very much ties itself to the coincidental plotting that these type of hostage offerings often acquire: the connected outsider. In this case it’s Heidi (Taja V. Simpson), a nurse living with her cerebral palsy-afflicted son (Vernon Taylor III, who has palsy in real life) who, wouldn’t you know it, treated Minny and is unaware that Gil and Tony have sought safety in her home.
Heidi’s son being afflicted with palsy and the violent, unpredictable nature of both Gil and Tony lends the film a serious case of uncomfortable tension whenever they’re alone together. Heidi spends the majority of her screen time trying to appease the situation, whilst Minny’s attempted seduction of a stranger, in a bid to acquire further safety, only angers the volatile Gil further – he’s seemingly unaware of the intention behind her supposed betrayal – which further adds to the tension the back-end of the film delights in.
As much as Baby Money comfortably sits within its genre constraints, it never attempts to move beyond that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the film itself moves at a quick pace and hits the right marks, but there’s never anything overtly exciting in the way it structures itself, even if the tension utilised is genuine.
Due to the desperation of its characters, Baby Money could have explored such depths further, but the grimy, unlikeable sheen applied overall allows the film to execute its intentions with more finesse than the characters are able to with their own objectives.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Baby Money is screening as part of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, which is being presented both virtually and physically between August 5th – 25th, 2021. For more information head to the official Fantasia Film Festival page.