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Jun 24, 2024

Don Shanahan

There’s a bit of a Robin Hood quality to the 2024 indie film Midas when it comes to robbing the rich to support the poor. The outlaw spirit and even the in-the-name-of-protest need is there in this day and age, but the landscape and the wealth are both decidedly different. Financial problems are not solved today by cartoonishly stealing big bags of currency like a 15th century English folk hero, or even the Heat or Set It Off bank robbers of the 1990s. The old line in Cabaret of “money makes the world go round” is still true, only it’s now found most abundantly in electronic forms on computer servers.

Midas writer-director TJ Noel-Sullivan, making his feature-length debut after an award-winning early career in shorts, is savvy to realization and has formulated a slick new heist film fit for modern times. Noel-Sullivan also knows that today’s Robin Hoods are not going after miserly members of royalty hoarding all the proverbial gold. The current people of the highest wealth and power control companies, not countries. They are the despised new targets.

Getting even more specific in that direction, Midas has chosen an ideal target for its thievery: the healthcare industry and the disparity between costs for the customers and the revenue of the providers. For many Americans, medical expenses are a big ticket line item on their budgets, where it accounts for 10-20% of the incomes of average individuals and families in good standing and represents over 18% of the entire country’s gross domestic product. Business is booming as the 10 largest healthcare companies in the country made anywhere from $34 billion to $361 billion in revenue just last year alone. The folks who take it on the chin the most are those over the age of 55 who front over 50% of the health system’s accrued expenditures while only representing a little over 30% of the population.

Simply put, who wouldn’t want a break from that expensive weight, especially when the financial burden extends to affect entire families trying to help foot the bill? That’s Midas’s place of urgency and desire, and it’s a good one. The film’s premise and conceit push the right buttons to root for the would-be criminals.

Emerging talent Laquan Copeland plays Ricky Pryce, a college dropout working as a food delivery driver for a network of soul food restaurants in Hartford, Connecticut. One of those small businesses is the at-home chef services belonging to his own mother Mia (Jo Ann Cleghorne of Vex). As inspired and dedicated as she is to make and sell her culinary wares, Mia’s ills from cancer slow her down, pushing Ricky to pine for other employment.

On the whim of angling for a nice night out, Ricky tags along with his two friends, Sunita Arora (Finding Tony’s Preet Kaur) and Victor Rojas (budding TV actor Federico Parra), to a lavish garden party hosted by the Midas insurance corporation. While enjoying how the other half lives, the young and alluring Ricky (a character trait matching the slick actor playing him) catches the romantic eye of Claire Brent (Victor vs. the Metaverse’s Lucy Powers), the daughter of Midas CEO Gregory Brent (Bob Gallagher of TV’s Reasonable Man). Dealing out a few lies about graduating from Harvard to impress the man and blend in, Ricky’s astonishing luck continues when Gregory promises him a job at Midas working for his sniveling nephew Tom (Erik Bloomquist from Founder’s Day), something the more qualified Sunita was pining for by coming to this party.

Now working on the inside of the very company that fired his mother and later denied her insurance claims, Ricky starts granting every claim that crosses his desk, which irks Tom and leads to a corporate slap of discipline as to how the denial side of the business is meant to be done. When Ricky starts snooping into his mother’s archived records at Midas, the genesis of a plan comes to mind that requires Sunita’s help from the mailroom and Victor’s knack with computers. All of this scheming happens while Ricky continues his lies with Claire and earns Gregory’s favor for a new project.

In true caper film fashion, Midas builds clever suspense through organized planning, close calls, and ever-escalating stakes. On the screenplay side, TJ Noel-Sullivan constructed a sneaky white-collar labyrinth that paces itself very well.. Little risks lead to big victories only for the seesaws of karma and greed to come around and remind our would-be heroic thieves that little mistakes can also trigger big consequences. Wisely so, Midas aligns itself in the right lane of scope and twists, backed by funky score of shakers and other percussion beats from Isabel Belen Guarco and recording artist Anoyd. This movie wasn’t ever going to be Mission: Impossible with its action, Hell or High Water with its pathos, or Ocean’s 11 with its dollar amounts, nor did it need to be anything on that level.

What counts, regardless of the heist movie, is that the target matters to the people executing the larceny or embezzlement. That’s what Midas gets right for its indie scale. As a reflection of that, Midas puts that worth in the form of the loaded question “How are you feeling?” There’s a casual answer and then the heavy one. The easy reply is your typical mood-labeling exchange of pleasantries. The wrinkles come if the casual approach is used as a lie to cover their true state. Because, in the other direction, that inquiry about physical well-being has soul-rattling depth when asked of someone experiencing or dealing with long-term or terminal ailments. Midas plays entertaining guessing games with all of those types of answers while looking for its scores.

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