The true-life crime drama "For the Love of Money" opens with pep, swagger and the promise of a crackling journey. But, as this mini-saga unfolds, it decelerates into an unremarkable good-guys-vs.-bad-guys tale that ends in a glaringly tension-free showdown. That the picture closes by quoting a Robert Frost poem shows just how relatively soft-boiled things wind up.
Set from 1973 to 1993, "Money" follows entrepreneurial Israeli immigrant Izek (Yuda Levi) as he pursues the American dream in Los Angeles along with his cousin and best friend, Yoni (Joshua Biton). Over time, the upright, self-possessed Izek becomes a successful small businessman and finds his soulmate (Delphine Chanéac), all while felonious forces — including a cruel gangster (James Caan), Yoni's ex-con brother (Oded Fehr) and a Colombian drug lord (Steven Bauer) — threaten Izek's personal code of honor.
Unfortunately, as the movie skips through the years, Izek's no-crime-please stance absents him from much of the action, racking focus from the film's appealing lead. In addition, the story's first half dovetails but doesn't fully mesh with its second part, causing some narrative whiplash.
That said, director Ellie Kanner-Zuckerman, working off a script by Jenna Mattison, keeps the picture largely watchable with quick pacing, technical proficiency and an enjoyable use of popular period tunes.
"For the Love of Money." MPAA rating: R for violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At AMC Loews Broadway 4, Santa Monica; AMC Universal Citywalk Stadium 19, Universal City; AMC Promenade 16, Woodland Hills.