The numbers don't lie, but the players just might.
PopGap #27: Finder's Fee (2001)
Finder's Fee is, coincidentally, the second movie this month about a lost lottery ticket, but has none of the charm, style, or vision of Rene Clair's Le Million. Erik Palladino stars as Tepper, a young man who seems decent, but his lazy ethics are sorely tested when he finds a wallet on the street containing a lottery ticket worth six million dollars. With his obnoxious friends arriving for a ritual poker night, plans to propose to his long-suffering girlfriend afterward, the wallet's owner en route to claim his property, and other inexplicable contrivances around the corner, Tepper endures a gut-churning evening of poor choices as he considers the ultimate question: how big of a douchebag is he, really?
There's a compelling idea in Finder's Fee, and the script by writer/director Jeff Probst (yes, the host of Survivor) is structurally quite good. On several occasions, the plotting of Finder's Fee is solid enough to overcome the insipid characters, the graceless direction, the lifeless dialog, and Matthew Lillard demonstrating the kind of overactive performance he can give without a capable director to rein him in. Palladino is a bland leading man, especially with Lillard flipping through his rolodex of clown faces right beside him. Both Ryan Reynolds (fresh off the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place) and Dash Mihok do their best with the material, and James Earl Jones is always good (if you ignore that his character is, ultimately, nonsensical), but none of them are able to overcome a generally clumsy presentation and a script that feels over-engineered but rarely filtered through the lens of logic.
With its confined set and cast of characters, Finder's Fee might've made a riveting chamber drama, with a few script adjustments and a director skilled at drawing unspoken tensions into the open (can we get a David Mamet rewrite?), but Probst, in his directorial debut, miscues nearly everything, from the opening music to the unnecessarily confusing and ham-handed love story subplot, and the script-by-numbers plot twists offer no value beyond their immediate impact.
Finder's Fee was brought to my Potluck Film Fest by Flickcharter Ty Tag, who can be found on Flickchart under the username goat6boy. He ranks it on his chart at #144 / 2790 (95%). Finder's Fee ranked on my Flickchart at #2723 (28%).
Notes on Finder's Fee (2001)
As movies are added to this list, I'll add them to Letterboxd, here: