Finder's Fee

Finder's Fee


Reviewed by: Nick Jones

Oh dear. The presenter of US TV show Survivor has turned his hand to writing and directing. You know instantly that the odds are not good, probably as remote as finding a wallet in the street with a winning lottery ticket inside it.

At least, it is apt that Jeff Probst's creative debut has such an unlikely scenario. And - surprise, surprise - the result is a disaster movie, not even worth watching for its unintended comedy value.

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Tepper (Erik Palladino) is a young man who, on his way back to his apartment one night, finds a wallet in the street. He goes home and, after an intense conversation with his girlfriend, forgets temporarily about his discovery. His girlfriend reminds him of the date they've arranged for later that night, after his regular poker game with his mates. Later, and just before his friends turn up, he discovers that the wallet contains a winning lottery ticket worth six million dollars.

However, by this point he has already left a message for the wallet's owner (some guy named Avery) and when his friends turn up to play cards, he realises he will need his best poker face tonight, because Avery (James Earl Jones), arrives for his wallet and ends up playing cards with them and this week, it's been decided that everyone's lottery tickets must be put down beforehand, and winner takes all.

So there you have it, an absolutely ridiculous "what if" premise, with a host of convenient plot twists thrown in to try and make the impossible seem possible. The poker game allows Probst to heighten the dramatic irony, as only Tepper and the audience know that he has a winning ticket.

Probst also conveniently puts the whole apartment on lockdown, with the police ordering everyone to stay in the room until they give the all clear. This is supposed to make us think that it is now a feasible outcome that Avery would stick around and play poker with a complete bunch of strangers.

However, because the characters are annoying and whiney, this narrative device backfires. As soon as it dawns on you that the whole film is going to take place inside Tepper's apartment, a sense of dread hits and you stop caring about the outcome. Watching other people play poker is boring at the best of times, but when one of them is Matthew Lillard, seemingly playing the same annoying guy as in Scream, it's more painful than watching amateur snooker in slow motion.

Another flaw is the imbalance between Tepper's character and his actions. He is clearly highly sensitive and thoughtful, as he looks after his elderly neighbour and also spends a lot of time worrying about his girlfriend. These traits make it very hard to believe that, when presented with the dilemma of whether to keep the winning ticket, or give it to its rightful owner, he has so much trouble doing the latter. His friend Quigley (Ryan Reynolds) is even more far fetched, as he seems to undergo a personality transplant halfway through, switching from the bumbling, picked-on loser of the piece to a willing mugger and would-be murderer.

The film's only saving grace is Jones, who somehow manages to convince us of some sense of coherence, while all around him is wholly unbelievable. That is until the end, when a final twist is employed, and the script finally admits deceit and caves in like a house of rigged playing cards.

As the credits roll, you wonder why you bothered wasting 100 minutes of your life on this flat, soulless piece of throwaway trash, and you realise that there is no meaning, or truth, to uncover; it is just a pointless comedy, with one joke. And it's always on you.

Reviewed on: 17 Apr 2006
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Finder's Fee packshot
Comedy of conscience, concerning a poker game and a winning lottery ticket
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Director: Jeff Probst

Writer: Jim Gulian, Jeff Probst

Starring: Robert Forster, Erik Palladino, Ryan Reynolds, James Earl Jones, Dash Mihok, Carly Pope, Frances Bay, Matthew Lillard

Year: 2001

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada/US


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