Review: Heist drama is an actors’ ‘Windfall’ for Jason Segel, Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins

Two men and a woman stand in a doorway looking outside in the movie “Windfall.”
Jason Segel, left, Lily Collins and Jesse Plemons in the movie “Windfall.”

In the opening minutes of the twisty heist drama “Windfall,” an unnamed burglar played by Jason Segel (called “Nobody” in the credits) wanders idly through an empty vacation home in a picturesque California mountain location. He’s living his dream, unbothered and unrushed, snooping through the drawers and cabinets of the fabulously wealthy and taking what he wants.

Then, unexpectedly, the property’s owners arrive. Played by Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins (cited in the credits as “CEO” and “Wife”), the couple is at first startled, and eager to shoo away the interloper, sending him off with a few thousand dollars in his pocket. But when this Nobody returns — concerned that he’s been ID-ed by their security cameras — the CEO and his wife shift to toying with him, promising him more money if he’ll stick around long enough to explain why he targeted them.

“Nobody” was directed by Charlie McDowell, who also wrote the story with Justin Lader, Andrew Kevin Walker and his three leads (all of whom are also producers on the film). Though the story takes place almost entirely in and around this one house, the cast fills the space impressively, making the film feel fuller. Also helpful in creating an unsettling tone: an alternately haunting and dissonant orchestral score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans (best known for their work on the TV series “Ozark”).


McDowell and company fumble a bit when it comes to plotting — something that, to be frank, is pretty important when it comes to films about crimes and capers. After the grabby initial setup, there’s one major surprise remaining. Otherwise, this story is more about digging into the pasts of these characters than what they’re doing in the present. There’s a lot of chit-chat and not a lot of action.

But “Windfall” is, throughout, a top-notch actors’ showcase. Segel delivers another of his compellingly muted takes on a wary mope, constantly on the lookout for what will go wrong next. Plemons explores the darker dimensions of a cunning plutocrat, unwilling to give anybody anything he thinks they don’t deserve. And Collins delivers one of her best performances, as a woman gradually coming to realize she might be able to turn this intense standoff to her advantage.

Even when the narrative stalls, McDowell and cinematographer Isiah Donté Lee can always drop in more shots of the amazing estate, which looks like luxury incarnate, sitting just beyond the reach of ordinary folks. At its heart, “Windfall” is about the increasingly widening line between the haves and the have-nots, and how hard it is even for a determined Nobody to cross it.


Rated: R, for language throughout and some violence

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Available March 18 on Netflix