Denison opens “Money Machine” with harrowing footage of the Route 91 concert that turned into a nightmare. With cell phone video shot as the mass shooting was underway, “Money Machine” doesn’t shy away from showing and detailing the brutality of what happened on a night when Stephen Paddock fired so many bullets from his hotel room window that killed over 50 people and injured hundreds more. Concert goers who barely escaped with their lives are interviewed (in bizarre extreme close-up) and share terrifying stories, including one who speaks about falling into a victim who had just been shot and having her finger enter his head “like a pumpkin.”
Despite the strange choice of angle in the interviews, “Money Machine” could have worked if it had focused on the people there that day, but Denison loses focus almost immediately. Even as he’s essentially recreating the shooting through footage, he’s starting to toss some conspiracy theories into the mix, including a famous one spawned by a cab driver who happened to be recording that day and seems to pick up multiple shooters. At first, the shots sound very distant, but the next round seems to come from much closer. To his credit, Denison does eventually get around to debunking most of the conspiracy theories about a second shooter, even having a forensics audio expert examine the footage for evidence of shots being fired at the same time by two or more people, but he allows them to hang in the air for most of the movie.
From the beginning of “Money Machine,” Denison is all over the place in terms of subject focus. He jumps from survivors to a commentary on the structure of Vegas to a suggestion that Paddock acted out because of the way he had been treated. Once a high roller, Paddock had suffered serious losses recently, and his brother suggests that the casinos that once treated him like a King had tossed him aside. The implication is that Paddock killed dozens of people to get back at Vegas, knowing the horror of that night would impact the bottom line of the casinos that had betrayed him.