Wednesday 17 February 2021

Movie Review: Crypto (2019)

A banking conspiracy thriller, Crypto throws too many rows into one spreadsheet. The execution is decent, but the plot is overloaded with attempted buzziness.

In Manhattan, Omnicorp Bank anti-money laundering analyst Marty Duran (Beau Knapp) does his job too well and runs afoul of the bigwigs. His sympathetic boss Robin Whiting (Jill Hennessy) reassigns him to the small branch in Elba, upstate New York, which happens to be Marty's home town. His father Marty Sr. (Kurt Russell) is a stubborn potato farmer threatened with foreclosure, and his brother Caleb (Luke Hemsworth) is an Iraq War veteran struggling to adjust. Neither is happy to see Marty again.

Marty reconnects with his high school buddy Earl (Jeremie Harris), who is engrossed in cryptocurrency trading. At work, Marty uncovers irregularities in the bank's transactions with the art gallery run by maneater Penelope (Malaya Rivera Drew) and her accountant/sex partner Ted Patterson (Vincent Kartheiser). Marty starts a friendship with gallery employee Katie (Alexis Bedel), but as he digs deeper into the books and Earl delves into unusual crypto transactions, the threads of a dangerous conspiracy emerge.

A melange of hot-button issues compete for attention in the Crypto screenplay by Carlyle Eubank and David Frigerio. Muddled by a rainstorm of acronyms, the evil conspiracy is never quite defined but includes illicit cryptocurrency trading, the dark web, market manipulation, cross-border money laundering, the Russian mafia, corrupt bank officials, shell companies, stone-faced assassins mopping up witnesses, and of the course the old standby, micro chips containing top secrets.

But director John Stalberg Jr. also has to contend with a whole other storyline, involving a bedraggled potato farm and Marty having to mend fences with his father and brother. Kurt Russell's craggy presence provides Crypto with some of its best moments, while Luke Hemsworth deftly avoids any scenes which don't require him to be on the verge of breaking something or someone.

Despite the overflowing agenda, room can still be found for a tepid relationship to evolve between Marty and Katie. He is quite functional but on the spectrum, as evidenced by wearing his work suit and office shoes on their scenic hike.

Stalberg maintains narrative zip and finds enough return-of-the-prodigal-son notes to achieve reasonable momentum, blissfully ignoring the ever expanding plot holes. But when the rescue cavalry arrives in a final flourish corresponding with the bad guys suddenly discovering their incompetent side, all the MNEs, AMLs, ATMs, ICOs, TRACs and BSAs finally dissolve into a hearty alphabet soup.

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