Does John Travolta, star of new ‘Cash Out,’ have another comeback in him?



John Travolta stars in the new movie, “Cash Out.”

If you haven’t seen much of John Travolta lately … well, don’t blame him.

The perpetual pride of Englewood has been busier than ever. He has made nine movies in the last five years. He also has done commercials, a music video with Pitbull, a short for Disney and a TV series.

Yet the only thing that sticks in most people’s minds is the way he mangled Idina Menzel’s name — “Adele Dezeem”? — at the 2014 Oscars.

If Travolta’s acting work seems to be hiding in plain sight, there is a reason. Just look at those recent credits. Maybe you saw those commercials he did for Capital One in a Santa suit. Maybe you even watched him pop up in that Kevin Hart series on Amazon, “Die Hart.” But did you ever hear of “Mob Land”? “The Poison Rose”? “Trading Paint”?

Did anyone?

Travolta’s latest is something called “Cash Out,” a heist movie (see trailer below). Still rocking the shaved-head-and-goatee look, he plays Mason Goddard, a recently retired high-end thief. Well, at least he thinks he’s retired. But then his old crew and his kid brother get into something big, and get way in over their heads, and Mason reluctantly picks up his gun again.

The usual cops-and-robbers complications ensue. Kristin Davis shows up as the well-groomed love interest (for a screen romance which never quite convinces). There are the requisite number of car chases, and crashes. The whole thing feels a little like one of the Sweathogs watched “The Thomas Crown Affair” and then decided to make a movie. ‘Cause, hey, how hard could it be?

The direction is competent, and Travolta, typically, gives his all, but the result is unremarkable. In fact, it’s immediately forgettable.

Which, sadly, seems to be the goal.

Although “Cash Out” is getting a brief theatrical release on April 26, it is clearly designed to fill a special kind of streaming need: Movies you don’t really need to pay attention to, movies you can sort-of watch while you’re on your phone. Who-cares cinema is an actual niche now, programmers admit, and while they don’t call it that explicitly, implicitly it’s what they’re looking for.

Visual Muzak. Moving wallpaper.

“Paradise City” (2022) co-starred John Travolta and Bruce Willis.

It’s a genre that has offered employment to a lot of aging stars. Before cognitive difficulties overtook him, Travolta’s contemporary (and fellow Jersey boy) Bruce Willis did a string of these time-fillers. (He even did one with Travolta, 2022’s “Paradise City.”) Shot on bare-bones budgets, with a minimum of dialogue — minimized even further as Willis’ condition worsened — they were junk food movies, made to be consumed quickly.

Which is okay. A job’s a job, and I don’t slam an actor for wanting to work — especially someone who knows, like Willis probably did, that he won’t be able to work for much longer. But it’s a shame when these disposable movies seem to be the only sort of jobs an actor can get.

Travolta turned 70 this year, believe it or not, and has been performing for more than a half century. But when was the last time you even saw him onscreen? The indie flick “Gotti” got only minimal press, all of it bad, before disappearing in 2018. He nabbed an Emmy nomination playing Robert Shapiro in TV’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” in 2016, but that was a small role in a huge ensemble cast. His last major movie was Oliver Stone’s “Savages” in 2012 — another supporting role, in another box-office disappointment.

Still, Travolta took that part, and made something of it. He always does. But he deserves bigger parts, and better films. He was marvelous in “A Civil Action” in 1998, playing a flawed but ultimately redeemed lawyer. He was effortlessly charismatic as the gangster-gone-Hollywood in “Get Shorty,” back in 1995. And as Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” — currently celebrating its 30th anniversary — he showed a canny awareness of his screen image, as well as a carefree willingness to mock it.

“Pulp Fiction,” of course, is the film that rescued his career after it flamed out in the early ’80s, torched by too many awful movies like “Moment by Moment.” But then how could Travolta’s rocketing rise not crash and burn after the too-sudden ’70s TV teen stardom of “Welcome Back, Kotter,” or the one-two punch of the blockbusters “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease”? His inevitable fall had nothing to do with a loss of talent, and Tarantino, as much a curator of actors as of films, couldn’t wait to give him a second chance.

So now who’s going to give him a third one?

True, Travolta has always carried a certain amount of tabloid baggage. Oddly, a lot of it has been the same sort lugged around by another Garden State legend, Tom Cruise. But while Cruise has always carefully controlled his image and compartmentalized the gossip, Travolta has always confronted it face on — and almost dared you to say anything about it.

John Travolta in “Battlefield Earth.”

There are dark rumors about Scientology and his involvement in it? Then he will put all his power behind making “Battlefield Earth,” an expensive — and awful — sci-fi epic based on a novel by wacked-out guru L. Ron Hubbard.

There is persistent gossip about his sexuality, and his private life? Then he will put on drag and star in — and shine in — “Hairspray,” in a role previously immortalized by gay legends Divine and Harvey Fierstein.

Perhaps that recklessness is the problem. Perhaps Travolta should have borrowed some of that famous Cruise control and avoided taking those roles, and those risks. Perhaps he should have been more careful about what he said “Yes” to, making sure to mix in a few respectable arthouse indies among the paycheck parts. (Nicolas Cage, his co-star in the brilliant “Face/Off,” has done as much straight-to-streaming sludge as Travolta, but he still throws in an occasional wild card like “Pig” or “Dream Scenario.”)

I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that Travolta’s next two releases — “Cash Out 2” and a rom-com musical called “That’s Amore!” — don’t seem to promise much. And I am sure that he, and his fans, deserve better.


Since launching in September 2014,, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


Custom Amount

Personal Info

Donation Total: $20.00

Explore more articles:

Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter