Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Matthew Lillard.
Finder’s Fee (2001)
When you go scouring the depths of someones IMDB page you occasionally come across something that baffles you that no one ever talks about it because of the people involved. Finder’s Fee is that movie. Not only is the cast a total powerhouse of talent – James Earl Jones, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, and Ryan Reynolds – but the thing that struck me as the most interesting was that the film was written and directed by none other than Survivor host Jeff Probst. With all of that information, and a genuinely enticing trailer, I just knew I had to check this out and share it with everyone.
Finder’s Fee is essentially a single setting film about four guys and their night of poker. While walking home to his apartment, Tepper (Erik Palladino) finds a man’s wallet. He intends to return it, calls the number of someone from inside the wallet and gives him his number and address, and decides to leave it be. That is until he realizes that the wallet just happens to be holding the 6 million dollar lottery ticket. Before he is able to do anything, his poker buddy’s Fishman (Matthew Lillard), Bolan (Dash Mihok), and Quigley (Ryan Reynolds) come over for a night of gambling. Not long after that, the wallets owner Avery Phillips (James Earl Jones) shows up asking for the wallet. Tupper returns the wallet to him after switching out his own lottery ticket with Avery’s. Before long, just as Tupper was trying to get Avery to leave, the police arrive and tell everyone that the building is in lock down and no one is allowed to leave. Thus ensues one giant ball of stress and anxiety as Avery is now stuck in the apartment with Tupper and the boys with no sign of leaving soon and every sign of Avery finding out that Tupper took his ticket.
This film has so many weird quirky things going on with it: its wonderful cast of oddball characters, the fact that Jeff Brobst made it, and it’s interesting morality tale. It’s got a few plot holes that you don’t exactly notice initially, which is nice, but slightly hinders it after it’s over and you’re thinking about them. It also doesn’t explore the interesting relationship between Tupper and his girlfriend Carla (Carly Pope) and sadly treats her as more of a plot element than a genuine character. Aside from that, though, there is very little to dislike about Finder’s Fee.
Overall, this movie is really quite good! The acting is incredibly inspiring; everyone brings their A-game, from the main characters down to the smaller roles. Carly Pope is very good, as well as Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) as Officer Campbell and the always fantastic Frances Bay (Blue Velvet) as the sweet older neighbor who lives across the hall from Tupper. The setting is great and wonderfully utilized, Tupper’s small apartment never feels cramped. In fact, I didn’t realize the film was set almost entirely in one big room, as the living room/dining room and kitchen are connected quite openly, until writing this. It’s incredibly well shot in that respect. The writing is fantastic as well. It never gets too preachy with it’s story about morality and truth, the characters are all incredibly wonderful and really fleshed out, and most of the film feels very realistic. Some will say, and I slightly agree, that it’s ending is a little unbelievable, but it still is a wonderful and shocking ending.
Fishman is a very fun character and Lillard play him very well. He starts out his role in the film with a fun and rambling monologue, which Lillard has proven to be incredible at doing, and that just sets up the character for his other amped up scenes later in the film. Lillard plays him as a fully fleshed out character; you can tell that there is backstory in his head somewhere that helps him portray Fishman more realistically than you see most people do their characters. He’s an absolute joy to watch down to his incredible emotional exit where he shows such an array of emotions impeccably and all at once.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Finder’s Fee is a unique and sweet film, full of morality, truth, quirky and unique characters, and phenomenal acting. Everyone down to the little old lady who lives across the hall are fantastic. The writing has a few little plot holes here and there, but it’s easily overlooked when watching such an incredibly fun movie. I leave this film with more love for every single actor in this movie than I had when I started the film and I think that’s a wonderful thing. I highly suggest checking this one out. Go out there, dig it up, and show this treasure to the world!
Come back tomorrow as we finish off Matthew Lillard week with a newer film about a ballet instructor played by none other than Sir Patrick Stewart!