Faker$: A Movie Review
Canadian movies suck ... that's right, I said it and you know it's true.
I mean who really wants to watch a Pierre Trudeau biopic, The Tommy Douglas Story or the animated version of The Hockey Sweater for the umpteenth time? I know, I'm being unfair, but how many times have we seen a movie that was Canadian-made and funded with the production values of a big budget action flick like Terminator 2 or Fast and the Furious? No, you can always pick out a distinctly Canadian movie. It's the one shot with a soft lens in the winter that forcefully evokes public television, as if it should immediately be followed by the Thames logo.
The Astral Media made-for-pay-TV production of Faker$ is different not because you can't tell it's Canadian -- the twenty-
something principal cast features Canadian-born unknowns whose credits come from locally-shot titles like The Invisible, Durham County and Flashpoint -- but because it seems to combine the feelings brought out by the best prep school dramas like School Ties, Dead Poets' Society and Sleepers with, what I like to call, underground-window movies. The ones that so thoroughly give the viewer a window on an underground segment of society, you find yourself walking out of the theatre and wanting to be a part of it. Films such as Rounders, Boiler Room, Oceans' Eleven and Goodfellas. They almost always feature an over-arching narrator guiding you through the ins and outs of the criminal element within.
Fakers follows two teens on opposite sides of the tracks. Tanner Cruikshank (Greyston Holt) is a bright and athletic kid on his way to college on the back of what he hopes is an amateur swimming scholarship. The pressure is liable to push him over the edge. His cousin Ben (Andrew Francis) on the other hand is a "rich asshole" kid with daddy issues. Ever the wheeler-dealer, he makes his living selling alcohol to the grade eights.
All seems good, but Ben recently slept with a drug dealer's girlfriend and then racked up a $10,000 charge on her credit card by losing the money in an online poker game. The drug dealer (known as The Lesbian because his family is from the Isle of Lesbos) decides to pay off the card, but not out of the goodness of his heart. Now Ben must settle the debt that's grown to $12,000 (with interest) or he'll be facing major pain and "nobody tests The Lesbian's follow-through."
The two have been inseparable since they were kids, but Ben's problems have a way of becoming Tanner's own. Putting his scholarship at risk, and, this time, forcing him to confront a past that he has spent the better part of his adolescence trying to forget. The mother he worshipped, (The Sopranos' Drea De Matteo playing a bored housewife in a bit part full of unspoken emotion and gravitas), trained him in the art of counterfeit so that he could help support her sweepstakes addiction by filing duplicate entries and converting the prizes she wins into their cash value or re-selling the prizes -- that is until she wins a cruise and takes the opportunity to abandon her failing marriage and her son, never to be seen again.
It's because of those skills that Tanner and Ben hatch a plan to pay off Ben's debt with counterfeit $20 bills (a denomination that will keep them under the radar) printed right in their school's own computer lab. Of course, every worthy scheme requires an inside man and in this case, it's an inside woman --the principal's closet kleptomaniac daughter, Emma Archibald, working with the boys for a third of the proceeds. From there, the viewer is treated to their own dummy-dollar tutorial at the hands of these young actors, in which we learn:
1. It's important to observe the habits of various front line cashiers and get to know what type of behavior sets off alarm bells during a transaction and what does not. Thereby becoming, "connoisseurs of the common cash transaction."
2. Be sure to abuse a few test bills thoroughly with glue, paint, chalk, rips, tears and cuts just to establish a baseline standard for what makes acceptable currency and which cashiers are the most forgiving. "Anytime someone flags a bill, find out why."
3. Once you have the dummy-dollars, buy big for the change (for laundering purposes).
4. Buy big purchases for the receipts and keep them (so you can launder the returns).
5. There are two supposed fates for a counterfeiter, death or a "cool job".
Small, animated short films within the movie introduce us to Alexander the Barber from Constantinople (circa 560 AD), who would clip the ends off the coins of the Justinian Roman Empire to shave their weight. Once Emperor Justinian found out about the crime, instead of killing Alex, he offered him a job in the treasury catching other fraudsters. I could not find any evidence that such a person existed based on the info provided by the movie, but the second example was definitely authentic. Alves dos Reis forged a contract to print bank notes on behalf of the Bank of Portugal in 1924. He was able to print 200,000 banknotes of $500 Portuguese escudos and then launder them through the colonies for smaller denominations of real money. The local press discovered the fraud a year later. But had they not, he would've brought down the Portuguese economic system single-handedly, since the amount of notes printed were equal to 88% of Portugal's GDP at the time. He was also in the process of becoming the majority owner of the Bank of Portugal, which would've covered his tracks indefinitely. He served 15 years in prison before being offered a job as...wait for it - a bank employee. He turned it down and died in poverty in 1955 in Angola.
In the case of Faker$, If life really does imitate art, you may not die, but we all can't be Frank Abagnale either, so I suggest you just enjoy it for the rarity it is -- a kick-ass Canadian movie.
Currently, Faker$ can be enjoyed by all Movie Network, Movie Central and HBO Canada cable subscribers. Call your service provider for ordering info and Astral Media for information on a potential DVD release.