Director Stuart Rosenberg's Pocket Money (1972) has a lot going for it: a stellar cast, acclaimed director and vibrant photography, but the one key ingredient it's missing is a good script. The premise and performances are solid but they unfortunately can't overcome the weak screenplay and the story just never really seems to go anywhere.
The opening credits and intro to Pocket Money along with its beautifully sung title track by Carole King is promising but it loses steam quickly and one can't help but be dissappointed when it doesn't pan out and all but falls apart toward the end.
The iconic Paul Newman stars Jim Kane, a Texas cowboy/horse-broker who earns his living buy selling horses to prestigious buyers and auctioneers. Coming off the heels of his latest horse transport trip from Arizona, his latest shipment of Appaloosa horses have been deemed as temporarily too sick for sale upon bloodwork inspection and are slapped into quarantine. This puts Jim in a bind seeing as how he's behind in payments of both his bank loan and alimony to his ex-wife. It will be six weeks before his horses are eligible to be removed from quarantine, during which he must quickly come up with some ----- you guessed it ----- 'pocket money'. We can all relate to this concept since it's something we can never have too much of.
While staying at a motel out of town coming off his business trip, Jim is accosted and propositioned by a shady businessman (Strother Martin) who offers Jim $250 a head to deliver a large herd of cattle up from Mexico. Jim see's this as the chance he's been looking for and accepts the unscrupulous cattle baron's offer. From there, he's quickly off to Mexico where he elists the help of his good buddy Leonard (the equally iconic Lee Marvin in fine form) who's already there. Together they scheme and come up with all sorts of money-making ventures while attempting to get and deliver the herd, all the while encountering stumbling blocks of all kinds every step of the way.
Paul Newman and Lee Marvin are both in top form and make for a great on-screen duo together, so it's only just too bad that they weren't given more of a story to showcase their good chemistry. The story just wanders a little too much, lacks direction and occasionally loses focus, although to be fair, the plot is less about the two main characters' exploits and endeavours than it is their friendship.
The film's best scene arguably comes toward the end where Jim and Leonard discontentedly accost Strother Martin's character at his posh hotel feeling that they've been scheisted out of their cut. There's a funny exchange of dialogue and Jim ends up non-chalantly dropping a tv off of the balcony just to make a point. 'No Dignity' as the scene is titled on the disc's chapter selection. The rest of the film isn't terrible, just mediocre. The film finally meanders to a clumsy, inconclusive ending that just sort of peters out.
The end result isn't an awful movie, but it has serious problems with focus and direction and in establishing a personality beyond Jim and Leonard. If nothing else, Pocket Money will be remembered for its one-time cinematic pairing of two dynamic actors (Newman and Marvin) in their prime and should provide a few chuckles here and there on a languid, Sunday afternoon. The real treat of the film for me is the self-titled number by Carole King ------ that song is so pretty and catchy!