Despite (or perhaps because of) unsubtle injections of broad comedy, this low-budget thriller throws viewers a few more curves than most direct-to-video obscurities.
A counterfeiter is slain by two hockey-masked intruders, but his freshly-minted $3 million instead falls to undercover cop Danny Whitley (Mark Paul Gosselaar). He contacts a petty crook nicknamed Hopscotch (Andrew Hawkes), planning to bust the punk and his cohort Frankie (Bruce Payne), a shady
club owner, when they show up to launder the funny money. Just before the sting goes down, Danny's sister Colleen (Hilary Swank) visits unexpectedly. From behind a door she gets a fatal glimpse of a lethal gun battle erupting among the several assembled hoods, Frankie soberly blasting all
opponents. When Colleen identifies mug shots of Frankie and Hopscotch, Danny's fellow officer Vic (Rob Stewart), Colleen's former lover, vows the suspects will pay for her brother's death.
Meanwhile, the two are trying to lay low with their suitcases full of cash, but Hopscotch's flamboyant lifestyle attracts further threats from the sadists in the hocky gear. When one kills Hopscotch in a gun battle, Frankie unmasks the marauders; one is Hopscotch's brother (Corbin Bernsen), while
the other is none other than corrupt policeman Vic, who demands to do a deal for the money. Colleen grows impatient with the apparently stalled police investigation and--masquerading as a stripper applicant--confronts Frankie at gunpoint. He stuns her by revealing what really happened as she hid
behind the door: two mob assassins hired by the police triggered the shootout by murdering Danny. Frankie killed only in self-defense. He proceeds to meet Vic at a desert location where the money is buried and bushwacks villainous Vic. Colleen arrives with Danny's department superior, Captain
Evans (Michael Gross), who shoots Vic dead. But Colleen realizes that Evans himself is a baddie, and kills him too. Frankie and Colleen walk away sadder, wiser, and $3 million richer.
It's a dreary cliche in contemporary film noir that police are corrupt--and police captains portrayed as benignly paternal authority figures are infinitely corrupt. Keep that in mind and KOUNTERFEIT's involved skullduggery holds few surprises in the end. What is unexpected is Frankie turning out
to be the offbeat hero of the piece. Frankie's slablike features and seedy-cool demeanor initially makes him just one outsized thug among many, but Payne gradually warms up the protagonist and balances nicely against Hawkes's scenery-chewing Joe Pesci act, which would be intolerably obnoxious
under any other circumstances. The latter is also the source for some incongruous comic relief, like an impromptu pool party crashed by a child doing stand-up schtick. Such wild shifts in tone make KOUNTERFEIT tough to pin down. Is it neo noir, post-modern ironic crime spoof, or mere exploitation
with an attitude? The slippery nature of the material is refreshing, at least, for an era of ingratiating Quentin Tarantino ripoffs. Despite Frankie's strip-show business and Hilary Swank's torrid exotic dance (this from a character introduced as an unemployed schoolteacher), actual nudity is
brief. (Violence, profanity, nudity, adult situations, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1996
- Rating: R
- Review: Despite (or perhaps because of) unsubtle injections of broad comedy, this low-budget thriller throws viewers a few more curves than most direct-to-video obscurities. A counterfeiter is slain by two hockey-masked intruders, but his freshly-minted $3 millio… (more)