Finder's Fee (2001) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for language, mild violence, and innuendo
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Erik Palladino, Matthew Lillard, James Earl Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Dash Mihok, Carly Pope, Robert Forster, Frances Bay
Director: Jeff Probst
Screenplay: Jeff Probst
Review published November 1, 2005
Man, oh man... I almost feel guilty for giving this film the low amount of stars I do, because by doing so, some of you may discouraged from checking this one out. I fear that if you do, you may miss out on one of the most unintentionally funny films you'll ever see, with plot turns so wildly contrived, you might just have to pause repeatedly to be sure not to laugh so hard that you'll miss one. I would guess expectations aren't going to run too high, with this being the first film written and directed by non other than Jeff Probst, known to most people as the host of the hit TV show, "Survivor", and the syndicated game show, "Rock N Roll Jeopardy!" While Probst deserves some credit for a competent directorial job, as a writer, Finder's Fee is so flagrant in its story manipulations, it easily ranks as one of the most implausible films I've seen in many a year.
Erik Palladino (U-571, Can't Hardly Wait) stars as Tepper, on the verge of asking his steady girl to marry him, when he finds another man's wallet in the street. No money inside, but some meager identification, a lottery ticket and someone else's phone number, which he calls to leave a message, being a good Samaritan. Shortly after, he discovers that the stranger's lottery ticket is the big $6 million winner, and Tepper's best intentions fall by the wayside as he swaps his losing ticket to take the winner for himself. He can't celebrate just yet, as tonight is poker night, where all his best buds come over for a heated card game. As they arrive, he is also greeted by Avery (Jones, Clear and Present Danger), who has stopped by to pick up his wallet. Tepper wants the evening to be quick, but no such luck, as the cops have put the building on lockdown, leaving Avery with nothing better to do than play cards with the guys. More bad news for Tepper: the stakes tonight include playing for lottery tickets, and he has only one he can ante up.
I am giggling just writing the plot summary, and I haven't even spilled the beans on some of the more egregiously bad twists Probst comes up with to try to make this already flimsy premise fly. You'll wince, you'll shake your head, and eventually, you'll cackle with delight, as layer upon layer of bad storytelling elements get introduced, each more unbelievable than the last. Going completely to waste is a pretty decent cast of actors, who each perform as best they can given the limitations of the script and the sometimes ad-libbed dialogue.
You'll have to do dole out some generous helpings of disbelief suspension to enjoy Finder's Fee, but frankly, even if you do buy all Probst dishes out, it's still only marginally entertaining at best. Hopefully, Probst realizes where his skills lie and he'll stay far away from a typewriter in the future. I'd wager that most of this cast wished they were voted out of the production once the cameras started to roll.
©2005 Vince Leo