After discovering his murdered partner took millions from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime.,James Treage must find the missing money before the Iraqis, LAPD, and the federal government in Rubidium Wu’s thriller The Devil’s Fortune.
The Devil’s Fortune is a throwback to the 90’s “men on a run” conspiracy thrillers that usually starred Tom Cruise and involved a labyrinth plot and a large gallery of supporting characters all thrown into the mix so, much like the main character, the audience doesn’t know who to trust. It was the John Grisham thriller that dominated the 90s, becoming the “go-to” popcorn entertainment of the decade, and they were hugely successful. But the conspiracy thrillers had their best days in the ’70s, post-Watergate. Chinatown, All the President’s Men, The Parallax View, and Three Days of The Condor may not have made as much money as Grisham’s blockbusters 20 years later, but they became bona fide classics of the genre and the standard-bearer for all that followed.
Wu’s film falls between these two eras’ and, while not reaching the heights of either, it remains a good, solidly-made film. Fund manager James Treage (a highly effective Connor Keene) arrives for a normal day at work only to be confronted by the decapitated body of his friend and partner. Confused and frightened, Treage panics and after the police question him, he decides to do his own investigation into what had happened. Thanks to director Wu’s creativity there are enough believable people here to give Treage a convincing world to occupy. As a director, Wu is patient with his material; there are a lot of interrogation scenes and exposition scenes that take place between two people either in rooms or vehicles, and these moments may seem to drag a little to some, but Wu’s direction deserves credit for making sure that these scenes play out until the point is made a little more deeply.
Some parts of The Devil’s Fortune are better than the whole, as the movie lacks overall precision, but on the plus side, the film works even if you can’t follow it, so most audience members are unlikely to be confused over what is happening. Wu also wrote the screenplay, and the dialogue is nice, allowing an actor like Craig Ng (playing Treage’s investigative partner and ‘man in the chair’ – a usually thankless role) to be surprisingly effective in scenes where he manages to convey that he is a good man with a good heart. Connor Keene is also strong in the leading role; one look at him and we feel comfortable because he seems to embody honesty. Treage is also a little slow to catch on to trust people too easily, and that makes it convincing when things don’t go according to plan.
The cinematography provides us with some memorable moments, a chase scene that takes place around some ruins looks great, while shots of the City lights at night are also captivating. The grading and colour scheme helps to give The Devil’s Fortune a genuine Hollywood sheen, and the music adds to the overall atmosphere and sense of paranoia that permeates throughout.
No doubt there were budgetary constraints, but what is missing from The Devil’s Fortune are a few more set pieces and chase scenes to add more excitement. The lack of funds is understandable, seeing that this is an independent feature, but if Wu had managed to somehow add more action and tension, we would now have on our hands a far superior movie that would make the big boys stand up and take notice. By and large, though, The Devil’s Fortune works. It is a riveting thriller that’s sometimes tense and always involving.