MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS Production Still

Despite struggles with its structure, MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS pays homage to Myanmar’s rich history of cinema and its struggle with censorship.

3 out of 5 stars

Last year marked the centenary of Burmese cinema, but many believe its golden days are long over. Dictatorship, corruption, and strict censorship threaten to stifle the creativity of struggling Burmese filmmakers, as Maung Sun’s feature debut MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS attempts to demonstrate.

Set in the post-military world of Myanmar, MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS follows Wai Bhone (Okkar Dat Khe), a young film director hired to shoot a remake of a popular gangster comedy.

Money-stricken producers, strict censorship and an unreliable crew threaten to derail Bhone’s film debut. At the same time, Bhone’s wife (Khin Khin Hsu) has just lost her job at the bank, leaving the family penniless and soon to be evicted from their apartment.

Faced with a multitude of obstacles, the desperate young director and his feckless brother-in-law Zaw Myint (Ko Thu) hatch a half-baked plan to ease their money worries – by robbing a bank. But just like the phrase goes, “money has four legs”, and Bhone soon finds that it only ever seems to run away from him.

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Mixing deadpan satire with bleak social drama, MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS is a perceptive and honest portrayal of the Burmese film industry. Blending elements of action with slapstick comedy and social realism, this satirical take on the life of an artist maintains an ironic sense of humour throughout.

There’s undoubtedly some inventive film work here, with Sun’s unique direction demonstrating his deep connection to his protagonist’s experiences. A fairy tale dream sequence towards the end of the film is sure to have you laughing through the darkness, while Thaid Dhi’s gritty cinematography beautifully juxtaposes the lives of the poor and the rich in urban Burma.

Okkar Dat Khe gives a convincing performance as Wai Bhone, the young director fuelled by desire and desperate to move out of the shadow of his late award-winning filmmaker father. Ko Thu is equally engaging as Bhone’s alcoholic brother-in-law Zaw Myint, his laid-back attitude and reckless behaviour allowing for some of the film’s most comical moments.

MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS Production Still

Yet despite all this, MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS struggles with its structure. Sitting somewhere between a drama and comedy, the film never fully hits its mark, flitting between various storylines without fully committing to any true resolution or pay-off.

Despite its 90-minute run time, the film also feels incredibly slow-paced and lethargic at times. Min Khin’s deliberately stilted edit initially works well, but as the film progresses, the zest required to pull off a fast-paced and exciting crime comedy is missing, causing some of the action sequences to fall a little flat.

That said, overall, MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS makes for an interesting and entertaining watch. Moving from a pointed satire to a gritty realist manifesto, this comedy of errors pays homage to Myanmar’s rich history of cinema and its struggle with censorship, resulting in a witty and provocative debut from the promising Burmese director.

MONEY HAS FOUR LEGS screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 06 October 2021