What would you do if you found a wallet containing a winning lottery number? Would you keep the ticket to reap the benefits of the winnings? Or would you try to return the wallet to its rightful owner, thus doing the right thing? This is the moral dilemma facing the lead character of “Finder’s Fee,” the writing and directing debut of Jeff Probst. Tepper (Erik Palladino) is the man who finds the wallet and suffers an evening of angst about exactly how to handle the situation. He plays host to a weekly game of poker attended by pals Bolan (Dash Mihok), Fishman (Matthew Lillard) and Quigley (Ryan Reynolds). Tepper initially does the right thing and makes the call, then considers other options when the owner of the wallet, Avery (James Earl Jones), arrives to claim what is rightfully his. What follows is an incredibly cinematic moral dilemma played out in one room over one tortuous night.
Probst is perhaps best known for his career as the host of television’s “Survivor.” (For anyone without a television, he’s the guy in the khaki’s who puts out the torches at tribal council and says stuff like, “…the tribe has spoken.”) While the visibility on the show has won him acclaim, he seems truly in his element as writer and director of his first indie feature. You have to admire the truly wonderful performances that Probst was able to pull from his perfect cast. The writing and directing is solid and admirable considering the limitations of the single location. It is a film that takes place in one room, which can be disconcerting and somewhat irritating to some, but Probst’s camera looms around the single location creating plenty of space for drama.
Matthew Lillard’s performance as the loudmouthed Fishman should quiet any doubters of his ability to pull off Shaggy in the “Scooby Doo” movie. Lillard rocks with one-liners flying fast and furious in a frenetic performance.
James Earl Jones is simply fantastic, but when has Jones ever not been fantastic? (Apparently during the incredibly tight shooting schedule, the filmmakers fell way behind and the clock was ticking. They were in danger of not completing the shoot on time. With the actors almost at each other’s throats on a very quiet and tension-filled set, Jones, in his inimitable Darth Vader voice, simply said, “Luke. I’m your father, m**********r!” All the actors burst out laughing and the crew went about their business. Funny story.)
And the film’s ending will not only have you on the edge of your seat, it will have you arguing about what is right, wrong and what really happened. A breakthrough debut feature from a new rising star in the indie film world.
Read the interview with the writer and director of “Finder’s Fee” in JEFF PROBST’S INDEPENDENT PURSUIT>>>