Writer-director Kalani Hubbard’s feature-length debut, Plunder Quest, is an adventure flick set in the wild jungle of… New York City? Yes, one of the world’s largest urban landscapes is just a wretched hive of scum and villainy from which the daring heroes must escape peril at every turn. But is the filmmaker able to balance the tone and keep things exciting?
Tom Waters (Jake Fallon) acquires rare or hard-to-find items for collectors who can afford his services. However, the daring man is more rogue and scoundrel than a legitimate businessman. In the beginning, Tom is frantically racing and running through the unknown corridors of the Big Apple to meet a client at a specific street corner. But, as it turns out, the out-of-print VHS of Time Pit is not what it seems.
This opening is awkward and off-putting. The editing is confusing, and there is no context as to how Jake and the client are related for far too long. As a result, it is not the strongest first impression, and the movie was in grave danger of being dead on arrival. However, once the plot properly kicks in and all the main players are introduced, Plunder Quest takes off in the best possible way.
“…Tom learns of a potential trove of unopened rum…”
When selling empty Prohibition-era whiskey bottles to a client, Tom learns of a potential trove of unopened rum hiding somewhere on the islands of the Hudson River. When escaping the wrath of the client from the beginning, Tom steals Amber’s moped. Amber (Katherine Flannery), a waitress at his favorite coffee shop, is now roped into the treasure hunt as well. Their adventure takes them to a mermaid-themed tavern as they entangle with unscrupulous sailors, strange gamblers, and are continually chased by clients Tom has ripped off.
Hubbard trots out all the tropes associated with the genre, including double-crosses, secret codes, hidden pathways, and booby traps. But, due to the modern era and urban setting, Plunder Quest feels fresh and invigorating. The pacing is fantastic as the leads run to and fro, researching and finding clues. It is breathless and exciting. The sequence at the tavern, which sees Tom and Amber needing to distract and steal a specific card from a heavy, is both hilarious and enthralling at every turn.
Jake Fallon plays Tom with the right amount of charm, wit, and smarm. This way, the audience always likes him, despite his unsavory tactics; think of him as Han Solo-lite, in the best way. His chemistry with Flannery is out of this world, and the pair nail every biting barb and goofy moment. For her part, Katherine Flannery plays the reluctant thrill-seeker brilliantly, with her song number being an absolute highlight.
While the first few minutes of Plunder Quest are jarring and confusing, it finds the proper footing shortly thereafter. The pacing is excellent, as one clue leads Tom and Amber off to another exciting locale throughout the boroughs. Fallon and Flannery are perfectly cast as adventurers seeking fortune and taking risks. And their chemistry is off the charts. There’s a sense of pure fun that runs throughout the majority of the film, which translates directly to everyone watching. It’s funny, exciting, and just plain cool. What more could one want?
"…funny, exciting, and just plain cool."