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Windfall

**
2022

‘…this sub-Pinter hostage drama feels like it’s been made strictly for the Netflix windfall…’

Charlie McDowell’s new thriller for the Netflix label features Californian orange trees; a whole orchard to be exact. They’re part of the lavish domestic arrangements of a super-rich CEO (Jesse Plemons) who finds himself and his new wife (Lily Collins) to be the victims of a home invasion by a mysterious man named Nobody (Jason Segel). The intruder demands cash, a windfall in the traditional gardening sense, in that he wants a large reward that he doesn’t want to work too hard for.

Windfall is a strange little one-location thriller that embraces more clichés than it dodges. There are great thrillers that make a point of not naming the characters, Walter Hill’s seminal The Driver for one. But as soon as we get that Plemons is playing a man listed as CEO, we just know that he’s not going to be anyone’s hero, and so it proves. Corporations and businessmen are always bad in movies; it’s understandable that a homespun ‘mom and pop’ operation like Netflix would be keen to hammer this point home.

Windfall at least gets a plus for laying off the violence expected from the home invasion genre, but doesn’t offer much in lieu other than yards of waffle and water-treading improv. Script doctor and man-still-coasting-on-writing Se7en Andrew Kevin Walker is amongst those credited on the script, but Windfall’s action is less than watertight; there’s a plot point about tying your shoelaces at inopportune times that must be one of the year’s worst groan-worthy moments and it’s only March. And when things do get physical, the one violent scene is a sub-Casualty domestic mishap that will have you cringing in your seat in horror…

So what do we learn from Windfall? If you’re robbing a house, check for cameras before you leave. If running from an active crime-scene, don’t stop to tie your laces until you’re a good few feet away. And if you’re a CEO, don’t give into social pressure and watch Chevy Chase in Three Amigos on a big screen with your wife and your home-intruder; it’ll only give-away your lack of soul when you fail to laugh at Chevy’s antics. McDowell previously had a notable success with the sublime The One I Love, but this sub-Pinter hostage drama feels like it’s been made strictly for the Netflix windfall for cast and crew alike, a windfall in the true sense of the word.

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  1. I think we must have watched different films. Admittedly, this was more of a stage play than a movie and would have died the death with a cinema release. But it was a good twist on the home invasion genre in that the invasion was accidental and the invader inept. Mr Nobody was merely a burglar forced into kidnapping when the CEO and his wife return unexpectedly. He is so useless that when his captives run away it is only by luck he captures them, and he cannot tie a decent knot nor lock anyone in with any success. There’s quite a creepy bit when the CEO effectively tells his wife to seduce the burglar in order to facilitate potential escape. There’s certainly redundant dialogue about rich vs poor and the whole thing stretches out way too long but there’s a good twist ending. Plemons is excellent, Lily Collins less so. In some way an ideal streaming watch.

    • Glad you enjoyed it; there’s a whole sub-genre aboyt incompetend criminals like Rithless People, but it’s hard to pull off. Happy to have lowered your expectations for this; it’s not awful, and does manage to dodge some cliches, and as noted elsewhere, didn’t go mad on the sexual threat that so often features in these movies. But I can’t say I saw any of these actors excell in these roles, and it’s a huge step down from The One I Love.

  2. I am a big fan of Plemons and wish he could find a better vehicle for his talents. For me, he stole the show in Power of the Dog and he was great in the very underrated Friday Night Lights television series.

    • Agreed on all counts. Not quite as much as Deep Water, but this is a top cast, and the talent behind the camera is considerable. But in ye olden days, we’d have called this straight to video. Plemons is getting big roles, just not the right one, yet.

  3. I am leery of the Home Invasion trope. Too many times (for my taste) it gets coupled with sexual violence. Which is why after watching the original and the reboot of Death Wish, I didn’t continue with any of the sequels. It’s not something I want to see, even if only by suggestion.

    So glad to hear that this movie doesn’t go down that path. But it doesn’t sound like it does much else correctly either.

    • I feel exactly the same. Even if it’s not shown, implies sexual violence is always part of these films. Best avoided. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t manage anything memorable in its place, but it’s worth being grateful for small mercies.

    • There’s a lot of talent here, in front of and behind the camera, and you’d think they’d come up with something better than this…

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