Private investigator Mort Madison [Matt Rife] is facing a downward spiral when a mysterious woman named Michelle [Clare Grant] hires him to spy on David [Elliot], whom she claims to be her lover. As Mort delves deeper into the investigation, he finds himself falling for Michelle, leading him to contemplate drastic measures to win her affection. With hopes of a future together, Mort sets out to remove David from the equation, but little does he know the truth holds a shocking revelation that will challenge everything he thought he knew.

Director and writer Jack Cook (founder of Illusion Islands) makes his directorial debut with The Private Eye. “I wanted to make a great movie, but I had limited resources, so I wrote an actors’ piece with heavy dialogue and in-depth storytelling with intricate characters. We also stylized the look of the camera and lighting,” Cook tells Hollywood First Look about how everything came to be. 

Inspired by films like Chinatown and Citizen Kane, Cook pieced together a carefully curated cast including Rife, Grant, Elliot, Denzel Whitaker [Bradley], Lexy Panterra [Sadie], Erik Griffin [Crazy Carl], and Eric Roberts [Edmond]. The film pays homage to the noir movies of the past, weaving in plot twists relying heavily on comedy, romance, and mystery. 

Rife, who boasts millions of followers and billions of views across multiple platforms, is front and center in The Private Eye. The comedian, known for his crowd work, leads the ensemble as they take the audience through 114 minutes of twists and turns. Grant, who stars opposite Rife, had been good friends with him for years when he pitched this movie to her. “I already knew what a talent he was, so I was interested in working with him. I loved the script when I read it and got excited to play a character with such depth as Michelle,” she tells Hollywood First Look. 

“Jack gathered everyone together to rehearse the scenes, which is uncommon in film. But coming from the stage and countless hours of rehearsing, I loved that we worked through everything together,” Grant says of preparing for her character. “I spent a lot of time working through which scenes were in which reality, Michelle’s or Mort’s, because both characters have drastically different ideas of what is going on. It was important to me to understand whose character’s point of view was dominant for each scene because it affected the underlying truth of the scene.”

The movie includes highlights with Erik Griffin (Workaholics) as Crazy Carl and Eric Roberts (Runaway Train, The Dark Knight) as Edmond. Roberts narrates the film, bringing his decades of expertise to the table. As usual, his performance stands out, adding layers of intrigue and nuance. 

“Jack was the kind of director everyone dreams of working with,” Grant says of Cook. “He had a very specific vision, which is comforting to actors; it makes them feel in good hands. He was open to ideas and collaborating with the actors to help build what I find to be a compelling little artsy indie film. ‘The Private Eye’ is a modern, gritty take on the classic film noir mystery genre. I hope it reminds audiences that there are more stories to tell other than the big action and CG blockbusters that we have all become so accustomed to.”

The cast includes Jay Reeves, Elijah Boothe, Eugenia Kuzmina, Alex Kagianaris, Petri Hawkins Byrd, Josiah Jack Kalian, JT Palmer, and Cory Kirk. Cook penned the script alongside Patrick Roe, Hope Ayiyi, and Rosalinda Books. It’s executive produced by Joe Hebeler, John Hebeler, Mark Doc Berry, Stan Paris, Jeff Schoenling, Tim Dougherty, Chip Turner, and Bill McCloy. The film is produced by Hope Ayiyi, Stream Gardner, and Alex Kagianaris and co-produced by Raaj Rahhi and Elijah Boothe, along with associate producer James Friedhoff. 

The Private Eye is in theaters nationwide on February 9.