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"The X-Files" Hell Money (1996)"The X Files" Hell Money (original title)

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26 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Who You Gonna Call?

Author: Muldernscully from Roy, Utah
8 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hell Money is a vast improvement in quality from the previous episode. It's an underrated episode that probably takes some undeserved heat after following the worst episode of the x-files. Hell Money takes place entirely in Chinatown in San Francisco. Therefore, most of the supporting characters speak only in Chinese, making for a lot of subtitles. Some people might find this annoying, but I feel it makes the episode feel more authentic. It would be too fake if all these Chinese immigrants were fluent in English. The Chinese music played throughout the episode also gives it an authentic feel. When the first guy loses at the game and has his heart removed by the doctors, I like how it appears that the spirits of his ancestors are taking his heart from him. The visual of the frog emerging from the corpse Scully is performing the autopsy on is very potent. Hell Money features another Mulder/sunflower seed scene. Very nice. I like the character of Hard-Faced Man. He looks and acts like the Cigarette Smoking Man even though he is Chinese. It makes you wonder if it was on purpose. I really liked the story. It drew me in. I like how Detective Chao is at first reluctant to help the agents, then slowly grows a conscience and tries to stop "the game". You might not recognize Lucy Liu from 'Charlie's Angels' and 'Ally McBeal', but she is the sick daughter. The authentic feel, interesting story, and good supporting cast make Hell Money a "game" you should play.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

How many dishes do you have to break before your boss tosses you in an oven?

Author: D. Williams from United States
3 November 2010

With episodes like "Irresistible" and "Grotesque," The X-Files proved it could weave together some fairly interesting stories without steadfastly adhering to the canon of paranormal activity. "Hell Money" is one such episode and perhaps in this regard strays farthest from the status quo. The script, after all, isn't quite so interested in exploring the foreign on an extrasensory level than it is on a cultural level, with the Chinatown of San Francisco serving as an effective and mystical backdrop. Much of the dialogue is daringly, although brokenly, presented in Cantonese and coupled with subtitles, a convention that, though in the modern television world has been made common practice with such culturally-inclusive programs as Lost, was a far more courageous move in 1996.

The premise is interesting enough: a Chinese-American mafia operates an organ-bidding lottery that has been murdering its defectors. When the corpse of a living man is discovered in a crematory oven, the talents of Mulder and Scully are summoned to the case.

It is a shame then that this episode so easily falls between the cracks of the Clyde Bruckman's and Jose Chung's of season three. More shameful is that it falls victim to the exact same problem as the previous episode (though, very thankfully, to a CONSIDERABLY less extent). "Hell Money" does not feel like an episode of The X-Files, and curiously enough it has nothing to do with the absence of paranormal occurrences. Instead, it is the relative absence of Mulder and Scully in the resolution of the crimes.

The arguable protagonist of the script is Detective Chao, played by B.D. Wong. Chao is an amiable enough character to interest the viewer's attention but it becomes rather apparent early on that he has a personal stake in the case. Although this stake determines his fate by the episode's end, his dilemma is unique in that he is clearly caught in the rift between two cultures, one reflecting the plight of the immigrant and the other the requisite of universal justice. The racial tensions presented in this episode, though touched upon, are never fully explored in-depth.

Lucy Liu appears as the daughter of Mr. Hsin, a luckless participant of the lottery. Known primarily for her more abrasive roles in Kill Bill and Charlie's Angels, it's interesting to see Liu in a gentler, more diffident performance.

Ultimately, "Hell Money" is an intriguing, albeit thin, look at human savagery in a culturally-bound setting, playing out similarly to a procedural drama (much like writer Jeffrey Vlaming's earlier offering, "2Shy"). As such there is not a lot of breathing room for either Mulder or Scully. Despite the occasional red herring, there is not much in the way of paranormal manifestation, but the underlying plot is competent enough to compensate for this. Though not one of the more memorable excursions of its particular year, "Hell Money" is certainly one of the more overlooked. 6 out of 10.

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

No matter what they say this episode has nothing to do with ghosts.

Author: Sanpaco13 from Sandy, UT, United States
20 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hell Money is one of those episodes that seemingly has nothing wrong with it but has always irked me for some reason. After rewatching it I have figured out what it is that bugs me and have been able to look past it and consider the rest of the episode. I will get to explaining this after a little synopsis.

China Town, San Francisco, CA. A security guard finds a Chinese man burned alive in a furnace. Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate. A local Chinese cop helps out to help with translation and to explain cultural details about the Chinese to Mulder and Scully. As with typical "ethnic folklore" episodes that we see throughout the series the cop turns out to know more than he lets on and is actually working against the agents to cover up a "game" going on on the black market. Desperate Chinese men gather to participate in a sort of lottery. The chances of winning such a lottery are slim indeed. Not only do you have to have your name drawn but then this only gives you the opportunity to choose another tile from another jar, only one of which will allow one to win the money. All the others cause one to lose an eye, liver, or heart to the black market. The game is eventually discovered to be rigged and Mulder and Scully help shut it down.

I like this episode because of the twisted nature of the game and the gruesome scars they find on the dead man with the frog inside him. I also like how the main Chinese doctor guy is like the Chinese version of the Cigarette Smoking Man. The one element that bothers me about this episode which I was referring to earlier is the fact that there is absolutely nothing paranormal about the episode. This in itself does not bother me. Its the fact that, to cover up the fact that there is no paranormal element, the writer's felt it necessary to make allusions to ghosts throughout the entire episode. Rather than just tell a twisted story about a twisted game it was like they had to justify it not having anything paranormal about it. It just bugs me. Despite this however I do still like the episode and give it a 8 out of 10.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Scary & Interesting

Author: s_l_wood from Canada
26 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A scary and effective episode. This episode was of better quality than most TV shows, and resembles a very good horror movie, albeit a short one. It involves an investigation into some gruesome murders in San Fransiscos Chinatown, which uncovers a lottery in which the losers pay a huge price. I found it very creepy, with people running a lottery that preys on people who are desperate and near hopeless. The revelation of the lottery, which I will not spoil, shows criminals whose ruthlessness is simply limitless. Also, one method of killing people in this episode, burning them alive in a crematorium, is probably the most horrible death I can think of. These killings are shown involving people being surrounded by flames, conjuring up images of Hell and the devil, who certainly seems to inhabit the criminals shown here. This a scary episode depiciting people who are not merely criminal, but profoundly evil.

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13 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

One of the best episodes

Author: victoria-strike from Australia
9 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the great episodes of the X-files in a series that is arguably the best of the lot. A man seeking money to pay for an operation on his sick daughter (Lucy Liu), engages in a dangerous lottery. Win, and she'll live, lose and he might lose his life. The horror of disfigurement, disability and the black market trade in organs is displayed with traumatic realism. The performances of the cameo cast are wonderful, with BD Wong (better known for his performances in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit as psychologist George Huang) a particular highlight.

This is one of those episodes where we see budding actors really shine in cameo roles, as both Jack Black and Giovanni Ribisi did in "D.P.O." earlier in this series. Terrible and fascinating to watch.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: odiaz-39079
3 February 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As always I love the variety that the X files offers since I am certain Scully and Mulder would often get cases that have nothing to do with the supernatural. This is one of those episodes that has nothing paranormal to it, yet it is still has an interesting story to offer.

I liked how the episode was handled all throughout. The story of a man who enters a rigged game to save his daughter was satisfactory. I would have liked to see more from this cult since we only see them attack twice. Overall it was a good episode that kept me entertained, the ending was a nice touch to reflect the seriousness of the people behind it.

I am taking 1 off just because the episode kept talking about this ghost which led up to nothing more than a simple allusion which was not needed.

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5 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Not very interesting

Author: Juan Sarmiento from Netherlands
15 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A slight improvement over last week's, but still a poor episode overall.

The directing is not bad, most of this episode looks very smoothly and Gillan Anderson looks at her prettiest.

The Asian cast works, none of them are too good. Not even Lucy Lui. But they work with the little they got.

The problem is the story, it's just not very interesting. The episode starts off really intriguing with an Asian guy being cremated alive. But the episode slowly turns into this cheesy, boring detective story. Were there actually any ghosts in there? maybe It's me who didn't get it, but did they ever bothered to explain?

TWO stars, there are worse. but this is still a sore thumb within the great third season.

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17 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

A rather disappointing episode...

Author: marjoriey from Hong Kong
16 March 2009

Bought the whole set from amazon as I missed some episodes/some series!

To me, this episode is quite annoying...for 2 main reasons:

1. I am Chinese & speak Cantonese which was the language the Chinatown characters spoke...I found all those Chinese ppl spoke rather slow, seems Cantonese is a foreign language to them...I am not sure if this's the real case for immigrants...but Lucy's Liu's father claimed he lived there for several years I supposed he won't lose his mother- tongue??

2. The gangster called Lucy's Liu's father's name wrong! His surname written on the plate for "lucky draw" was "Suen", but the gangster called him "Sum", this was a HUGE mistake!! The two names in Chinese is very different!

XD this made me wonder if the research for other x-files relate to other nations would have errors as well...

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2 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Not far behind oubliette as worst episode of Season 3

Author: wjohnson15 from United Kingdom
1 March 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jeffrey Vlaming, connaiseur of pulling his own trousers down. His first episode, 2 Shy was creepy and disgusting, and altogether rather enjoyable. Hell Money is none of the above. A story set in Chinatown, it centres around a man trying to get money for his daughter's operation by playing a deadly game, this is a classic example of what could have been a good episode let down by poor writing. So you the plot sounds interesting? Think again. It's contrived and poorly executed. The thing which really lets this down is the ending. That poo-stabber of a detective commits suicide. Why? Don't ask me. I don't know either. It's the worst-written conclusion I've ever seen. Put some effort in man! At least a reason for the suicide would have been nice, we don't care about him anyway. Poor Poor effort.

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