Windfall | Crime Drama | Waterloo, Iowa

The following is a review and classification emailed to Live Free by Cleopatra Awards and one of their head honcho elitists, Paul Newblam, in regards to Barkhoff’s sophomoric film effort “Windfall”:

Following a series of devotion to strictly short films, filmmaker Mike Barkhoff returned to helm in the big Director’s Chair for his sophomore feature film, “Windfall”, released May 8th, 2020 for free on the YouTube channel of film company Live Free.

“Windfall” follows Marcus Crawsley, a parking ramp maintenance employee who strikes luck one day when he finds two thousand dollars in a stairwell. Apparently, the ramp doesn’t have a ‘Lost & Found’ policy, and, if it does, he doesn’t care to return the money to its rightful owner. This is especially notable when the rightful owner, a drug kingpin, gives Marcus a friendly warning. At first. Things take a sharp turn, however, when the money isn’t returned and the kingpin grows tired of waiting, putting Marcus at war with a kingpin and his pawns in the messy game of chess that ensues.

Following an ensemble cast that features Barkhoff himself (as Crawsley), Jarrod Van Hauen, Ashtun O’Rourke, Sydney See, Travis Barkhoff (we’ll call him Barkhoff 2 in further writings of this, as to not confuse the two), Dillon Bosler, Tyler Fulks, Mason Gronen, Brett Mast, Emmett Kendrick, Madison See (we’ll call her See 2 in further writings of this, as to not confuse the two), Shae Lynn, and local rapper Yung Bong, “Windfall” was met with acclaim from web critics within weeks of release, and set what is, as of the time of this writing, the record high debut numbers for Live Free. Notable actors in this project are Barkhoff, O’Rourke, See, Barkhoff 2, Mast, and especially Fulks. The aforementioned all bring notoriety to their roles. The others, while not as notable, all do fairly solid in their spots, too. Van Hauen and Bosler bring comedy to tense moments. Kendrick is a fun cameo due to his role in Barkhoff’s past projects. Lynn and See 2 are good and effective in their exclusive roles – even if they aren’t too memorable – and the appearance from Yung Bong, a local musician where the project was filmed, is sure to get a round of clapter from his fanbase.

A portion of the cast listed above also leant a hand to Barkhoff’s debut feature film, “INFINITE.”, which was met with similar reviews and records in 2018. Unlike “INFINITE.”, however, it appears Barkhoff decided to craft a story with much less societal outlook and a lot more danger and character study. Where “INFINITE.” studied a world without censorship, “Windfall” studies characters put into an elusive hamster ball to see where and how they’d react. My favorite part of “Windfall” is that every primary character is given a moment to shine, in true classic ensemble fashion, and with that we see a glimpse of what that character embodies. A good example is Matthew Crawsley (portrayed by Barkhoff 2) on his numerous smoke breaks, Sid (portrayed by See) having expressive anger frequently, and Mary (portrayed by O’Rourke) extinguishing stress with what is arguably massive overreaction.

Unlike “INFINITE.”, where you were bound to hate certain aspects – at times all aspects – of a specific character and enjoy the other, “Windfall” gives you a chance to connect to everyone, even if they are a drug dealer trying to get revenge for something that, initially, seemed so small and inferior in terms of importance to their vital role in society. A notable moment and example of this, for myself, is when Jason (portrayed by Gronen) expresses anger towards Marcus for the death of his brother Quinn (portrayed by Fulks). It fleshes out a bad person, but makes you realize that, on the inside, they have humane traits, similar to us. Released in parts like it’s predecessor, Parts 1 and 2 act as opening acts while the latter two do their job of concluding the story. Except the story isn’t really concluded, but more left on a minor cliffhanger that seemingly implies a sequel’s existence (though it, at the time of writing, has yet to be confirmed). Again, similar to “INFINITE.”, my person has deemed aspects to specific Parts more uphealing than others. For example, Part 1 has received criticism for it’s pace, but is noted for it’s camera techniques. Nearly opposite, Part 2 took critique towards it’s more poor camerawork, but was regarded highly for it’s editing and soundtrack. And where Part 3 was critiqued for it’s poor editing but welcomed for it’s more comedic tone, Part 4 received notice for it’s editing and serious tone. The reasoning for this is simple – “Windfall”, much like the film it grew in the shadow of (the aforementioned “INFINITE.”) wasn’t released in Parts by accident. While the former took it’s shaping of Parts due to an extensive – and effective, and comical – nature of examination towards advertisements, “Windfall” did so for production reasons. Continue.

Back in 2018, when the film wrapped filming, the previous company held by Barkhoff, entitled Barking Vans, was advertising this ‘film’ as a web series. Though Barkhoff has, again, at the time of this writing, not given any insight on the creative decision to stray from the web series format to a full length film, it would seem promising that some segments of story likely faced disembowel in the transitionary process. Unlike his first feature film, which saw Barkhoff deliver a thirty minute interview conducted by then-friend, now-manager Zach Delfs the day after release, Barkhoff has remained primarily mute over the release of his sophomoric effort. This is likely due to the ongoing pandemic, which is also likely the reason Barkhoff released this film when he did and how he did (it’s release also featured zero advertisement beforehand). After all, Barkhoff was, as recent as early 2020, revealing that his sophomore effort was intended to be an ‘unbiased political comedy’ and, based on his Twitter feed and comments in the Live Free Podcast, that intent was fully there until just as recently as a month prior to the release, with a third film ‘in the works also’. That third film wouldn’t have been the political comedy, but instead the followup to it.

On Barkhoff’s first day of joining Twitter again, New Years Day 2020, he shared a post that featured the titles and front pages of his next four film’s scripts – “I Give It A Year”, “Doppelgang”, “The Great Escape” (a sequel to “INFINITE.”), and “A Midnight’s Walk Home”. Obviously, “Windfall” had been filmed by then, but his wording seemed to suggest these were THE next four. Also notice, there’s no mention of a “Windfall 2”, and all of the aforementioned titles but one, the latter, have had either massive or minor details of plot released, which would confirm that a guaranteed three are not sequels. And a sequel to “Windfall”, at least to me, wouldn’t seem to hold the seemingly Shakespearen-inspired title “A Midnight’s Walk Home”. But who knows? Barkhoff is eccentric and ecstatic. My case in point is this! Does this mean Barkhoff was close to scrapping “Windfall” in favor of his lineup he had planned? If it did, and “Windfall” is the effect of a pandemic raining on Barkhoff’s plans for a sunny day, forcing him to be placed into a corner and pull strings to give himself the wiggle room necessary to give proper focus and longer time for his next project(s) growth, perhaps blessings really do come in disguise. Because without “Windfall”, we wouldn’t have seen Barkhoff’s editing chops enacted on the film, which are, arguably, among his best we’ve seen yet, and there wouldn’t be a “Windfall OST”, which is by far the best music composed by himself. Barkhoff bodied just about everything on the production of this film.

Was the directing dry at times? That’s undoubted. But how would you do if you were the writer, editor, director, AND star of your own film? At the age of 20, too, don’t forget. How? And that ‘How?’ isn’t just to exemplify my statement in that last sentence, but it’s also a ‘How?’ as to ‘How has Barkhoff managed any of these feats this fast and productively?’. It’s impressive, to say the least. You hear about musicians becoming massively popular at a young age, and then rich and then growing from that. But filmmakers? To date, the youngest filmmaker to release a film theatrically is John Singleton, aged 24 when his debut “Boyz n the Hood” released. Could Barkhoff beat this record? Only time will tell. But what time already has told is this. Continue. Barkhoff’s “Windfall” covers every nook and cranny seen in “INFINITE.”, and, unlike that film, manages to show us just how far he’s come as a filmmaker. The fact it was filmed the same year as his debut’s release just proves how much devotion he has to the craft, and how quick he is to pick up on new tricks and coin them into his efforts. If that’s the case, and his third, fourth, fifth(…) films are still in working stages, I truly cannot wait to see them complete fruition and arrive on my screen. “Windfall” featured highlights with it’s editing, soundtrack, and writing.

Though the acting was loose from some of the ensemble, and though it may feel incomplete at times, it’s highly impressive for a second film to be this good. 8/10 

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