Feb 13, 2024
Milena Crowley, Kyle Eastman, Vincent Eclavea Jr.
Short action thriller Pocket Change is an appropriately frantic, twisting ride that is high on intensity and upending expectations. It creaks under the weight of its own chaos and loses sight of its story, but makes up for this with committed performances and satisfyingly violent action.
Following a bloody and brutal heist of a biotech company, Irina (Milena Crowley) is interrogated due to suspicions of her involvement. She recounts her contact with former confidants such as Barry (Koji Niiya), Shooter (Amery Ken Tao) and Ana (Shandra Fuerte) – reliving an unpredictable break-in that did not go to plan, as revelations about the true dynamics between the group members come to light.
There is no hesitation in embracing classic heist staples in Pocket Change. The old gang getting back together for one last job, jumping back and forth between pre- and post-raid, double agents – you name it and its probably somewhere in this tight 15-minute run. But that is not to say that there is not intrigue. Protagonist Irina’s role in the film tantalises throughout and provides a reliable throughline, and the conflicting relations that are built up between the group members are also explored authentically. A classically-macho film’s embrace of LGBT themes without feeling an obligation to place them at the forefront of the film’s purpose is also refreshing, using these constructively rather than symbolically.
The film’s story loses coherence as events progress – and viewers will be forgiven for losing track of key plot points even in the short running time. Branching storylines being spread amongst the cast of characters is initially a strength, though does lead to something of a pile-up that means the conclusion is a bit of a mess. The ending in general feels like a damp squib, lacking a final beat that brings the film’s point across succinctly enough given the different themes raised throughout.
The cast are fantastic and their performances are an enormous asset in the filmmaker’s desire to take the story (extravagant as it is) seriously. Amery Ken Tao and Koji Niiya are both highlights, taking complex and layered characters and adding their own intensity to the construction. Milena Crowley juggles Irina’s varying states of mind in both past and present impressively, as a reluctant and contemplative participant in the raid. The cast seem to genuinely enjoy being part of a classic action film – revelling in dialogue that could have otherwise landed flat. Instead, the result is a committed, throwback of a heist film that takes enjoyment in what it is.
Pocket Change is hardly high art, and has a pretty standard heist plot that explores twists and turns in a way that respects its audience. It’s in the flourishes, the chances that it takes, where it truly excels and becomes memorable.