Doing Money (2019)
Doing Money (2019)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: April 5th, 2019 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Lynsey Miller Actors: Anca Dumitra, Turlough Convery, Tom Glynn-Carney, Karen Hassan, Allen Leech, Voica Oltean, Alina Ioana Serban, Cosmina Stratan

 


 

“I

n real life, you have no breath to scream.” In London, buoyant, fresh-faced, young Romanian woman and aspiring nurse Ana (Anca Dumitra) joyfully strolls home after work (as a housekeeper). In broad daylight, on a sunny street, a man jumps out of a burgundy sedan, stifles Ana’s scream with a hand over her mouth, threatens her life and that of her mother, then stuffs her into the car (which also contains Cosmina Stratan as Ancuta, giving a tremendous performance as a shockingly villainous matriarch). The introductory pop music and the general environmental cheeriness certainly won’t prepare audiences for the abrupt abduction.

In a matter of minutes, Ana is hurried into an airport and then aboard a plane, where she’s taken to Ireland and tossed into a shabby apartment to be sold into prostitution. She wasn’t groomed or tricked, as many of the girls from her poverty-ridden country are; she’s stolen away from her life, suddenly and without specific connections to dangerous people. She wasn’t particularly at-risk; clearly, this kind of horror could happen to anyone. Dubbed “Blind One,” Ana refuses to have sex for money, which prompts her captors to rape her into submission. Soon, she meets her fellow victims, including “Skinny One” (Voica Oltean), who was indeed deceived by her boyfriend into thinking she would be doing webcam acts only. But everyone held prisoner in the Irish apartment is forced into sex with clients. When they put up any resistance, food is withheld. Escape seems impossible as well; not only are they in a foreign country, but they also have no clothes or passports.

In a twist of stinging tragedy, Ana views a raid by the police as a godsend. But despite an ostensible rescue, she’s abhorrently treated as a culprit rather than a victim. Her kidnappers made sure to steal her identity for use in covering up their crimes, leading to her prosecution instead of theirs. “Why don’t they arrest the men?” Disastrously, even after the women leave the jail, they’re handed right back into the hands of the instigators (maintaining control through emotional manipulation and blackmail), who simply set up shop in a different location (this time, Belfast).

“Doing Money” – a slang term for prostitution – isn’t meant to be uplifting or hopeful. It’s supposed to be eye-opening, highlighting not only the grotesque perspectives of many countries’ laws on prostitution, but also on the grotesqueries of the industry, which has no shortage of clients and which realizes an extraordinary – and terribly disturbing – value on underage women. Law enforcement is impotent and the laws themselves only get in the way of helping those in need, especially considering that the victims are in no position to help themselves.

Though the film is based on real events, there’s a Hollywoodized feel about the staging of the scenarios; artificial suspense is derived from the involvement of two police officers tasked with getting to the bottom of (or hunting down) the prostitution ring (Karen Hassan as Rachel and Allen Leech as Doug), along with investigating an underage slave named Daniella. Even less fitting is the decision to portray the story as a flashback, which immediately betrays the question of whether or not Ana eventually escapes her hell. Fortunately, the production values are high and the acting is superb, giving the unnerving tale a certain validity beyond its obvious fictionalized qualities. Ultimately, it’s a horror film of the most realistic kind.

“I protect you from the police; from immigration,” insists a brutal pimp. The message of the film is as potent and valuable as it is atrocious, especially when it reveals uncommon details about the sex-trafficking industry, such as the ways in which women are motivated to pretend as if they have genuine relationships with their johns, to accrue more clients, and to rise up in the ranks for greater responsibilities (and, by extension, freedoms). Survival instincts are unconcerned with the intricacies of propriety.

However, there’s a slowness to the proceedings, stemming from a sense of education over entertainment (if the word “entertainment” can be used for a piercing examination of such dark subjects). There’s also an aggravation that arises from the desperation and the literal and psychological confinement; it’s alarming, exasperating, and haunting all at once. Few heroes (and some of those are questionable), substantial villains, distressing societal ignorance and complacency, and a bombardment of sickening imagery certainly make “Doing Money” a doleful experience. The resolution returns to a familiar cinematic style (employing a disappointing bookend construction), though it concludes on a documentary-like note, which negates the more dramatic components from before – while also solidifying the picture’s interests in presenting a message more than a work of art.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10