Cash Only (2015)

Albania, US / 90 minutes / color / Bardha, “Nickname”, Filmbuff Dir: Malik Bader Pr: Ele Bardha, Nickola Shreli Scr: Nickola Shreli Cine: Christos Moisides Cast: Nickola Shreli, Stivi Paskoski, Danijela Stajnfeld, Herion Mustafaraj, Maia Noni, Christian “Trick Trick” Mathis, Ava Simony, Myles Stephens, Malik Bader, Ele Bardha, Djelina Berishaj, Arian Camaj, Daniel Ross, Nick Camaj, Gjek Lukaj, Janae Stinson, Brandon Trammer, Saman Samona.

Nickola Shreli as Elvis.

I’m not sure if this is the only Albania/US coproduction ever made, but certainly that’s not an attribute you frequently encounter in a movie. Unsurprisingly, some of the dialogue is in (subtitled) Albanian. The movie’s set within Detroit’s Albanian community.

Our central character is Elvis “Visi” Martini (Shreli), an Armenian–American with something of the Vin Diesel about him. Two years ago he suffered a family tragedy. Although it was never proved against him in a court of law, he set fire to his home for the insurance, little realizing his beloved wife had come home early from work and was napping upstairs. Now a single parent, he raises improbably pretty but video-game-addicted daughter Lena (Simony), supporting them by renting out apartments in the building he bought with the insurance money.

Danijela Stajinfeld as Blerta.

But most of the tenants are recalcitrant in paying the rent, the bank’s threatening to foreclose on the mortgage, and local kingpin Deda (Nick Camaj) wants repayment of the $10,000 he lent Elvis a while back.

Through his spycams, Elvis discovers that one of his tenants, hooker Rolexa (Noni), has a large stash of money stowed away in the apartment she shares with Continue reading

Crush (2013)

US / 95 minutes / color / Intrepid Pictures, FilmNation Dir: Malik Bader Pr: Trevor Macy, Marc D. Evans Scr: Sonny Mallhi Cine: Scott Kevan Cast: Lucas Till, Crystal Reed, Sarah Bolger, Caitriona Balfe, Reid Ewing, Holt McCallany, DJ Kemp, Camille Guaty, Michael Landes, Isaiah Mustafa, Leigh Whannell, Ashleigh Craig, Cody Hamilton, Dan Metcalfe, Preston Davis, Mariah Buzolin, Melissa Young, Nikki SooHoo, Meredith Salenger.

A surprisingly neat little movie that hovers somewhere between dark comedy and twisty psychological thriller, with a bit of coming-of-age drama thrown in. The performances are uniformly very good to excellent; almost all of them manage to be convincing while at the same time retaining something of the tongue-in-cheek. I was expecting a ripoff of—sorry, homage to—The FAN (the 1996 piece, not the 1981 one), but what I saw was a far more original and certainly far more entertaining movie than that.

By way of prologue, we see a little girl (Craig) and a little boy (Hamilton) sitting on a high roof. When the little boy admits with a chuckle that “I kissed Emily,” his companion hisses, “You kissed the wrong girl” . . . and shoves him off the roof to his death. And she does this so sweetly you just know no one will ever believe it was anything other than a tragic accident.

Ashleigh Craig as the junior psycho.

Cut forward a decade or more, and Continue reading