favor_111The last twenty minutes of a thriller are like the last two minutes of an NBA game: no matter how good the action has been up until then, it all comes down to the closing moments. Paul Osborne, director and writer of the new feature film Favor, gets this. He nails the last twenty minutes of the movie with a couple of well-timed twists, which make up for a few shortcomings and elevate the effort into a solid little flick that is worth a watch.

The premise is simple and established immediately. The paths of two childhood friends have diverged. The successful one shows up at the house of the other in the middle of the night to ask a favor. His lead-in to the request: “You once said, ‘You can tell how good a friend is by whether or not they’ll help you move a dead body.”

Okay, guess what the favor is.

Yes, clunky dialogue is one of the aforementioned shortcomings, but there you have it. Kip Desmond (Blayne Weaver) has been doing the deed with a diner waitress, but the post-coital snuggling went wrong, and now his smoking career with a smoking secretary (Christina Rose) and his smoking wife (Cheryl Nichols) are in jeopardy. It’s Starvin’ Marvin Croat (Patrick Day) to the rescue. Marvin is starvin’ because he’s been out of work for months. Still, he’s as up for anything as he’s ever been, and he’s ready to win this one for the Kipper.

Marvin takes care of the waitress (and let’s just say that he really takes care of the waitress), while Kip continues to nail it at work and home. And that is when we encounter the second shortcoming. The basic nature and motivations of the two leads constantly shift, and the actors struggle as a result. Kip is a cold-blooded killer one minute (well, more like a room temperature-blooded killer) and a weak-willed sap the next. Marvin veers from guilt-ridden PTSD victim to manipulative sociopath and back with an occasional stop in the land of self-delusion.

At first, Marvin seems to want nothing more than appreciation and recognition from Kip, but that’s followed quickly by requests for money and sex. While that may be normal within a certain context, Marvin adopting the dead woman’s cat and displaying her driver’s license as a trophy starts to give off a little “it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again” vibe. You sense that this one doesn’t end with snapshots of the two buddies’ weekend in Vegas, and the threat of a yawn-a-thon, seen-it-before ending looms.

Fortunately, director Osborne saves the best for last, and both lead actors have the opportunity to finish strongly. Tips of the cap as well to Joe Pezzula, credited for sound, and gaffer Lucas McNelly. Much of the film takes place at night, and the scenes are well-lit. The ambient background noise is also very effective in parts of the movie.

Three stars.

A side note: it’s damn good to see Jeffrey Combs again, even if it’s only in a couple of scenes in a throwaway role. Next year will make it an even thirty since the release of Re-Animator, and wouldn’t it be great to watch him don the white lab coat of Dr. Hubert West one more time?

 

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