A Stylish but Limp and Lax Caper Thriller

NR | 1h 32min | Drama, Crime, Thriller | 18 November 2022 (USA)

Based loosely on the short film of eight minutes made in 2015 “Double Cross,” “The Pay Day” is a great example of why most short films aren’t adapted into features. It feels stretched, padded and longer than it is at 92 minutes.

Sam Bradford directed the productions. Kyla Frye and Sam Benjamin wrote the scripts. It also received a legitimacy boost thanks to the inclusion Simon Callow (respected actor).“Amadeus,” “Four Weddings & a Funeral,” “Shakespeare in Love”) in an extended cameo.

Ellen Thomas, a veteran actress (BBC TV Show), is also featured in a glorified cameo. “EastEnders”Ms. Boomer is the unscrupulous owner a London IT company. She is firing Jenn (Frye: Think of a larger-figured Zoe Saldana). Although it is not made clear, it would appear Jenn is a subcontractor who has performed a lengthy, complicated, and successful job yet Boomer doesn’t want to pay her.

Jenn (Karla Friede), an IT specialist, feels forced to commit a heist. “The Pay Day.” (Apple TV)

Based on what goes down, Jenn is quite good at what she does, but is petrified that she’ll be unable to land another job despite living in one of most IT-heavy cities in the entire world.

After a few pity parties with friends, Jenn gets a mysterious call from Gates (Callow, who is a stunning Ian McKellen impersonator) who offers Jenn $5,000,000 for a single day of work doing what her best.

The Catch

Jenn declines Gates’ job description, even though she is desperate for work. Jenn believes that what Gates wants her to do in illegal. Gates then brings up a few of Jenn’s past dubious deeds that would likely lead to certain arrest and prosecution, effectively blackmailing her. Jenn reluctantly accepts the job. It’s 10 minutes in and we’ve now reached the movie’s narrative high-water mark.

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In the first of several impossible-to-swallow plot points, Jenn enters a highly secured facility and, according to Gates, she will be able to gain entry by flirting with an easy-to-charm male receptionist. Said receptionist isn’t working that day and his replacement is a brittle and inflexible female who isn’t buying what the overly flattering Jenn is selling. One strike.

What should you do now?

Thinking on her feet, Jenn then decides the best way to gaining entry is by pretending she’s a cleaning woman and does so through a rear service entrance. Getting past the guard is relatively easy as he’s consumed with wolfing down what appears to be a box of deep-fried shrimp while barely noticing a custodian wearing four-inch, pointed-toe, cruel-shoe pumps. Strike 2.

Jenn is challenged by another employee when she attempts to go to the correct floor. He stated that cleaning staff are not allowed in that area. Jenn, who never made eye contact with him, retorts that he doesn’t allow cleaning staff in that area. He buys the entire thing whole, allowing Jenn to enter an extremely secure area. Three strikes.

Enter Mr. You are a handsome man

While hacking into the generic company’s security system, Jenn is interrupted by a guy alternately referred to as John or George (but not Paul or Ringo), played by Benjamin (think younger versions of Ed Burns or Vinnie Jones with hair and an alternating Liverpool/Scottish accent). Oozing equal amounts of smarm, charm, and mild menace, John/George is not the CEO he claims to be and, although it’s obvious he knows Jenn is up to no good, he leaves her alone while taking a rooftop smoke break. Strikes three through six.

Epoch Times Photo
Jenn (Karla Fischer) and John/George, an IT specialist, face off, in “The Pay Day.” (Apple TV)

If you think you’ve been given too much plot, trust me, you haven’t. There’s still AN HOUR left to go and not a lick of it makes any sense whatsoever.

The Only Good News

To Bradford’s credit, he pulls off a decent technical aping of some Steven Soderbergh films; particularly “Out of Sight,” “The Limey,”The “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise. He diverts the attention from the screenplay by using some unique, but not original, split-screen, pan and scan camera work. The movie looks as glamorous and sexy from a visual perspective.

The only true success here is the sinewy score from Daisy Coole and Tom Nettleship, which are credited as “Two Twenty Two”It’s a funk-jazz/ambient blend that is interwoven throughout the song and helps to divert our attention from the go nowhere story. It currently has my vote for the best original score of this year.

This film is not recommended for dedicated score aficionados or aspiring film composers. Two of the film’s assigned 2.5 stars are solely because of the hypnotic original music.

Epoch Times Photo
Simon Callow (L), Karla Froste, Sam Benjamin and Sam Benjamin play the roles of characters in the heist film “The Pay Day.” (Apple TV)

‘The Pay Day’
Sam Bradford is the Director
Stars: Kyla Frye, Sam Benjamin, Simon Callow, Ellen Thomas
Running Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
MPAA Rating Not Rated
Release Date: November 18, 2022
Rating: 2.5 out 5

Michael Clark

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Michael Clark, originally from Washington, D.C., has provided film content to more than 30 print and online media outlets. He co-founded Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 as well as contributing weekly to the Shannon Burke Show on FloridaManRadio.com. Clark has published over 4,000 film reviews and other articles since 1995. He loves dark comedy, thrillers, as well as documentaries.

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