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Counterfeiters

There's nothing like money -- or the lack thereof -- to make otherwise normal and sensible people do the wildest and riskiest things. Those things might not even seem all that wild or risky to them, because when you're truly desperate, your standards change before you even realize what's going on. That's what happens to Bridger (Bryce Hirschberg) when his mother (Julie Simone) gets the news that the cancer she thought she'd beaten has come back. All their savings went to cover the first battle with the disease, and now she's exhausted and they're broke.

Certainly Bridger's job at the yacht club isn't going to make them rich, but when his uniform accidentally goes through the wash with some dollar bills in the pocket, it gives him an idea -- one of those wild ideas that normally he might not consider seriously for a moment. But it's either take the chance or watch his mother die slowly and painfully, and that's no choice at all.

Soon Bridger has his own business set up on a boat moored at the very yacht club where he has his day job. With the help of his friends, like Rob (Robert McEveety) and Preston (Taylor Lockwood), he's figured out a relatively low-risk way to counterfeit money. First of all, his bills can beat the counterfeit detection pens that are so common. The pens react with the paper, and his paper is genuine because he's starting with real $1 bills, bleaching them, and using a copy machine to turn them into $20 bills. That's the second clever part of the plan: who bothers taking the time to double-check a twenty?

It's a good scheme and Bridger does his best to keep it low-key, with limited success. Owning a boat isn't exactly subtle, and though he orders Rob to sell off a Porsche he's bought, Bridger seems to think the boat is fine for him to have. And it could be useful, he argues, in case the cops do get suspicious and they need to head out into the ocean to dispose of their equipment and their fake bills.

It seems like he's thought of everything, but there are some issues. For one thing, girlfriend Amber (Peyton Pritchard) doesn't know where his money comes from. For another, he doesn't know how to pilot his own boat, and he's forced to recruit Jimmy (Shawn Rolph) to handle that. Jimmy is shocked at Bridger's scheme, but if anyone understands, it's him: Bridger met Jimmy at the hospital, where he's also watching his mother undergo cancer treatments and struggling to pay. But there's also a cop (Jim Hirschberg) nosing around, and Bridger can't be sure if he's under suspicion, or if he can trust his friends. When things start to unravel, they unravel fast, and Bridger and his crew find themselves mixed up with more trouble than they ever imagined.

It's an outstanding action-thriller worth four and a half out of five, and though it was made on a shoestring budget you'd never guess that from the film's utterly professional look. Writer, director, and star Bryce Hirschberg shines in all three roles, an impressive hat trick. He mainly recruited friends and relatives for the cast, but you'd never guess that, either. He must come from a long line of natural actors since the acting is solid throughout with several stand-out performances -- Lockwood, for example, turns the relatively small role of Preston into a scene-stealer by the end.

And Bridger, of course, is far too charming and naturally manipulative for anyone's good. Like a lot of twenty-somethings he's convinced nothing truly bad will ever happen to him, which is both a curse and a blessing as he navigates the unfamiliar world of crime. You can't help but feel sorry for him, though, even as you want to talk some sense into him -- it isn't the simple desire to be rich that drives him; it's literally a life or death situation. So how do you make money, as the film's tagline asks? However you can -- as long as you're willing to face the consequences.

Image: 
Bridger examines a bill. Is it real or is it Xerox?

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