‘What You Wish For’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: Does Ryan Continue To Play Jack?

There are horror flicks that fail to serve their purpose, and there are thrillers that are anything but thrilling. Nick Stahl, in his mid-40s, plays a sous chef who’s been through a life of hardships for which he only has himself to blame. Writer-director Nicholas Tomnay’s What You Wish For sets the tone of the movie in its premise and throws in a twist that very few of us would’ve guessed. Walking into this movie without expecting much was clearly a bad call on my part. And it’s a pleasant surprise to sit through a film and just take in Nick Stahl’s oddly magnificent performance in one of the less talked-about movies of this year.


Spoilers Ahead

What happens in the movie?

Ryan travels to South America, hoping to hide from a creditor named Rabbit. Ryan’s gambling habits have landed him in huge debt, and he planned a reunion with his old friend Jack. Both Ryan and Jack are chefs, but Jack’s wealth surpasses Ryan’s by miles. Jack works for an agency that hosts dinners for VIP clients, but he doesn’t tell Ryan much about his work. The two friends meet a solo traveler, Alice, who at first presumes they’re a couple. Ryan and Jack clarify that this is the first time they’ve met in 12 years, and when Alice learns that they’re chefs, she goes to the villa with them for a friendly cooking contest between Ryan and Jack. Both the pals make risotto, and Alice deems Ryan’s dish to be the superior one. But the result of the contest has nothing to do with who she chooses to sleep with, as she and Jack greet Ryan goodnight soon after. The next day, while Jack is out for work, Ryan finds his laptop unlocked and sees how ridiculously wealthy he is. Later in the night, Jack confesses to Ryan that he’s not happy in his life, and even though he has enough of a fortune, he regrets having to do the things he does. The very next morning, Ryan finds Jack’s hanged himself. 


What does Ryan do after Jack kills himself?

Texts from Rabbit only keep coming, and Ryan has to return the money he owes. His mind goes to Jack’s bank account, but this time he finds the laptop closed and locked. Ryan manages to access the laptop, but Jack’s saved account details are gone. Ryan tries to pretend to be Jack and get the password changed, but the bank representative would only allow it if Jack visited their branch in London with proper identification. Ryan tries to order a fake driver’s license from a shady Chinese website, but he looks nothing like Jack. When Rabbit threatens his mother, Ryan offers Rabbit more money than he’s owed to protect his mom. He calls another friend named Kevin to ask for money, but everyone’s aware of his gambling habits, and Kevin hangs up on him. Ryan does one thing right and dumps Jack’s body deep under the pond outside the villa, but a bigger problem waits for him the next morning. 

How does Ryan deal with the agency?

Jack’s employers, Imogene and Maurice, come to the villa, and they think Ryan is Jack. Ryan plays along when he gets to know that the job offers 300,000 pounds, but he’s clueless about what he needs to do. Imogene asks Ryan if he has vetted the meat and what the status of the produce is. Ryan is flabbergasted and has no answer for any of Imogene’s questions, and soon his socks get knocked off when he figures that the produce is a human body, and the agency serves rich cannibals. Their clients pay one and a half million each for a booking, and they get picked up by a private jet to fly to the venue. Jack earned this much money by cooking people, quite literally. Ryan and Maurice then hunt a guy named Jose, and before he can realize the crazy circumstances he’s in, Ryan has to cut up a human for meat.


Why do the police show up at the dinner?

All the VIPs turn up at the villa one by one, waiting for their big dining experience. But a police officer named Gallo Maurice, whom Ryan encountered earlier, shows up with Detective Ruiz. They are looking for Ruiz’s cousin, Jose, who has been missing since morning. Imogene pretends to be the manager of a real estate company, and Ryan has to play the architect. Ryan somehow dodges Ruiz’s interrogation, but Ruiz figures that he isn’t the best of architects. Imogene is truly an evil entity hiding behind a pretty face, and she tells Jack to serve the soup made with Jose’s meat. Ruiz and Gallo love it, but obviously can’t quite decipher the new kind of meat they were tasting. Imogen informs her guests that the police are here and they need to play investors, and this is one of the many ways the agency plays it safe. All of their guests have to memorize what roles to play if an unforeseeable situation takes shape. One of the guests, Mr. Nishiharta, invites the detective to join them for dinner despite Imogen’s hesitance. Nishiharta tells the group that life is more fun when there’s a risk involved, and Ruiz accepts the invitation, thinking one of them might lead him to Jose.

Who killed Alice?

Alice shows up at the villa, hoping to see Jack, but she sees Maurice and Imogene addressing Ryan as Jack instead. Ryan tells her that she needs to go, and he’s filling in for Jack. Alice senses the oddity of it all and sees a watch on Ryan’s hand, which Jack was very proud of. Jack won that watch from Ryan 15 years ago, and he wouldn’t have let go of it. Ryan somehow manages to show the door to Alice, but her car doesn’t start, and she is confused about who to call. She’s somehow pretty certain that something has happened to Jack, but the events overwhelm her before Maurice catches her on the property. Ryan needs to make a dessert with the tongue, but he finds Jose’s tongue has some kind of herpes, and he can’t use it. Imogene insists that they need a tongue, as it was a special request from two of the guests, and Alice chooses to come back to the kitchen at the worst of times. Maurice kills her off camera, and her tongue is served with sorbet for an exquisite dessert. 


Does Ryan manage to escape from the agency?

In What You Wish For‘s ending, Ryan slips a note to detective Ruiz, and they meet in the bathroom. Ryan confesses that the meat Ruiz has been feasting on is his own cousin’s, and the people organizing this dinner operate on an international level. After much puking, Ruiz plans to arrest them right away, but he has left his phone in the kitchen. Jack tells him to wait in the slaughterhouse, and Maurice sniffs out the danger. Even though Maurice doesn’t understand that it was Ryan who led Ruiz to the basement, he disposes of the detective with a chainsaw. All the guests leave extremely happy with Ryan’s culinary skills, and his only chance of escaping the deadly loop gets shredded. 

Does Ryan continue to play Jack?

Ryan knew there’s no way to quit once you join this business, and the ones who tried to quit only ended up as a delicacy on a plate. Imogene and Maurice are really happy with the feedback of the guests and will give him his next gig in Africa. Ryan fled from his old life to protect himself from Rabbit, but he got to change his identity and an opportunity to start a new life. Jack’s death only opened the path for him to make money in exchange for killing his conscience, and by the end of the movie, Ryan is still depressed, but he’s made his peace with it. All the money couldn’t stop Jack from killing himself, but it’s not impossible for Ryan to keep doing this when his bank account has more money in it than he ever imagined.  When a textile manufacturer meets Ryan at the airport lounge, the man seems envious of Ryan’s profession, just the same way Ryan was of Jack. This scene implies that Ryan has come full circle, and now he’s in the same position where Jack was at the beginning of What You Wish For.


Why can nobody quit the Agency?

The reason Jack killed himself is because he realized the business he’s into is barbaric. Jack never had the heart to carry on for too long in a job where he has to murder people to serve them on a platter. Ryan got to know about a chef named Greta, who’s the only one who ever left the business. Hearing about her from Maurice gave him hope that even he can get out at the right moment. But Imogen broke his misconception soon and told him that Greta never made it out, and she was served at a dinner a week after she quit. The Agency is a corporation which runs by ruthless methods, and once someone gets involved with them, the only way out is death. 

What You Wish For has a protagonist who’s deeply problematic, but the audience is bound to sympathize with him. Nick Stahl is wonderful in his portrayal of Ryan, and his tense performance is the only thing the script needed. After what started out as a somewhat basic thriller movie, the director picks up the pace of the story really well after the first 20 minutes. 


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Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket is a literature student pursuing his master's degree while trying to comprehend Joyce and Pound. When his head is not shoved in books, he finds solace in cinema and his heart beats for poetry, football, and Adam Sandler in times.

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