Ritchie Flynn (Alessandro Nivola) has a good job as a health inspector. He loves his job. Too bad he didn't tell his employer that he was in jail for 11 months prior to his employment. Needless to say, his employment is swiftly terminated.
Ritchie's dad, Nat (Christopher Walken) is a con man. He'd probably not prefer that term though, he'd much rather be known as a person who makes the system work for him. Nat is all about getting anything he can for free. He has numerous phone lines set up so he can win free stuff on the radio, he drives around in a car plastered with Sweet 'n Low advertising so he gets a free PT Cruiser and gas. He eats at hotels that offer free breakfast in the mornings and coffee all day. Sadly, his semi-illegal activities have caused a rift between him and his son and now he's dying of a brain tumor.
Ritchie hasn't talked to his dad in almost a year. He's still bitter about his lifestyle. Nat doesn't see anything wrong with working the system, but he needs his son's help to drive him to New Mexico in order to enroll in a scientific study for his tumor.
Oh the road trip movie. Aren't they all the same? People thrust together for a long haul, stuck side-by-side in a small car. They're inevitably forced to learn to love each other, no matter how much they can't stand one another. The highways of America have been bringing people together for decades in film, '$5 a Day' is no exception.
Part of me wanted to love this movie, mostly because Christopher Walken is being Christopher Walken. What's not to love about that? The guy is a force, and has become as self-aware of his acting style as William Shatner. Walken plays up his persona perfectly. That's why we all love him. We even get some of the patented Walken dance moves.
So why didn't I love this movie as much as I wanted to? It's just way too predictable. Father and son set off across the country. At first they're at odds, but soon they become pals again. Realizations about their relationship are found around every bend. Walken and Nivola have some good chemistry together, and provide the film with some much needed humor, but overall, it feels flat and unfinished. Nat's con techniques are nothing we haven't seen before, like ordering room service and charging it to a room that's not his, only to take the food once it has arrived.
Lessons are learned, odd characters pop up along the way – like a horny old lady played by Sharon Stone (shudder) – but, in the end '$5 a Day' is just too predictable and flat to be the heart-rending movie it wants to be. Once the father/son duo get into that pink Sweet 'n Low plastered car, we know exactly what's going to happen. The road trip movie formula is in full swing here, and even with a nice performance by the one and only Walken, '$5 a Day' fails to arrive at any new destinations.
'$5 a Day' comes to Blu-ray with a lackluster 1080p transfer.
Fine detail looks almost like standard definition. Softness persists throughout the film, never providing that HD pop we're looking for. Colors are muted and washed out. Skintones take on an unnatural white-washed look. Other times, during lowly lit scenes, skintones give off a ghastly yellowish tinge. Contrast is middling at best. Darker scenes suffer from crushing blacks, thankfully, there aren't many darker scenes in the film. Source noise is constantly popping up.
Overall, the entire film is flat and uninteresting. The lack of detail makes for a one-dimensional feel that never slips the eye any HD candy.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation provides a slightly nicer overall experience than the video, but it never crosses the line to become entirely engaging.
Voices, especially when Ritchie is talking over the phone and leaving messages on his girlfriend's machine, are very muffled and hard to hear. Softer whispers come across muddled and at times incoherent. When people speak in their normal voices, dialogue is intelligible, but flat sounding. LFE is muted, except for the occasional instance where music in the movie's soundtrack needs a little bass. Ambient sound, like parties is weak, but can be heard in the rear speakers.
It's an adequate sound presentation, but in the end, it's altogether pretty uninteresting.
In order to mask its extremely meager supplemental offering, Image Entertainment has seen fit to provide you with a 35 cent off coupon for Sweet 'n Low. How nice of them.
Even Christopher Walken being Christopher Walken can't save '$5 a Day' from being a bland, predictable, clichéd road trip movie. Even the con man schemes that Walken pulls off never seem original, although it's easy enough to see that someone could actually make something like that work in real-life. '$5 a Day' is just too formulaic for its own good. The video and audio also leave much to be desired, but hey, at least you get 35 cents off your next Sweet 'n Low purchase. Rent it if this piques your interest. Otherwise, just skip it.