Three never-say-die Czech buddies eventually manage to steal a fortune, but have trouble spending it without attracting attention, in genial caper dramedy “Money Makes the Man.” Fine acting by the three leads is undercut somewhat by leisurely pacing and distracting technical flourishes, suggesting the item’s payoff lies in regional play and healthy ancillary.
A socialist-era scam of Cuban auto workers goes awry, sending Ondrej (Ondrej Vetchy) to jail, Tomas (Tomas Hanak) to exile in France and Michal (Michal Suchanek) to a drab life running a one-car sightseeing service in Prague. In 2002, Tomas reunites the trio with the mantra “If you’re going to steal, steal big.”
This they do, only to lose their hard-earned gains when bags of money are swept away by floods. A second score goes much better, but they’re eventually done in by lavish lifestyles.
Director Jiri Chlumsky pays clever homage to such landmark heist films as “Rififi” and “The Italian Job,” with the added frisson of the trio imagining various robbery scenarios that keep auds on their toes. Pic is undone by flabby later reels in which they savor their loot, though Michal’s g.f. (Renata Visnerova-Prokopova) looks fine in their tropical paradise.
The leads show comfortable chemistry, with vets Vetchy and Hanak settling comfortably into middle-aged roles and Suchanek holding his own.
Tech credits are almost too pro, with optical and audio trickery derailing narrative thrust. Pic held the local box office crown for a month following its late September bow.