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.