Exclusive Review: FAVOR (2014){0}

What are the “bare essentials” for creating a good thriller? Screenplay, obviously, is priority number one. A few good actors, a decent visual approach, and some editorial skills are essential, but really: the screenplay is the foundation. The low-key and deceptively unassuming indie thriller calledFavor sum my theory up quite nicely. Here we have a nifty, twisty screenplay (one that’s not exactly “Hitchcockian” but does approach “early John Dahl-ian”) that starts out very simple and gradually tightens into a surprisingly suspenseful affair.

The handsome, cocky, and upwardly-mobile advertising executive Kip (Blayne Weaver) has a problem. More specifically, he has a corpse in a hotel room that needs disposing of. The story opens with Kip pleading his case to his lifelong pal Marvin (Patrick Day), but the bottom line, of course, is this: the upper-class Kip wants the sad-sack single guy to take care of corpse disposal. Why? Because friends do favours (or, if they’re American, favors) for friends. And really old friends do gigantic favours, apparently.

Thus begins a simple (but not simplistic) story that goes in a few directions you may expect, and then several others you probably won’t. Like we covered in the beginning, a solid screenplay is worth its weight in gold, and director/editor/producer/screenwriter Paul Osborne delivers efficient character beats, clever dialogue, and a straightforward suspense story that starts out seemingly predictable, but nails some great twists and just keeps on rolling.

Both lead actors are strong. Blayne is easily smug and smarmy but also shows some legitimate glimmers of humanity, while Day is plainly “a loser” in many respects, but the actor brings an odd nobility to the character as well. The best work often resides in the grey areas, and this holds true for both the Favor screenplay and its lead actors. Kudos as well to genre star Jeffrey Combs for lending his name to a solid indie production. The actor only has one key scene, but he underplays the malice like a master. (Fun scene!)

If Favor has a secret weapon, it lies in the supporting cast of memorable females. Kip’s wife (the only real heart in the film) is played very well by Cheryl Nichols; the adorable Christina Rose steals a few scenes as Kip’s over-enthusiastic assistant; and Alison Martin plays a very clever detective who shows up late in the film but almost steals the whole damn thing.

Basically, Favor feels like a remake of a lesser-known 1949 film noir that just now takes place in modern-day Los Angeles. Given how many lesser-known film noir titles are also damn good movies, I’d call that a firm recommendation.


Scott Weinberg