Review by Sean Boelman
Heist movies have a tendency to get overly convoluted, but every once in a while, a film comes along that strips the genre down to its basics. Christian Sesma’s new action flick Paydirt does just that, offering a caper without any of the frills, resulting in a movie that’s predictable but mostly amusing.
The film tells the story of a recently paroled ex-convict who teams up with his former crew to find a bag of cash that he buried before he did his time, catching himself on the path of his former employer and a retired sheriff whose career he derailed. What makes this movie stand out is that its heist isn’t something complex and multifaceted — yes there’s some planning, and there’s an obligatory reveal at the end — but Sesma is less worried about building the puzzle than showing the audience the finished picture.
Arguably the biggest problem with the film is that it can’t decide on a set tone to stick with. In some segments, it feels like it wants to be a gritty action movie, only for the next scene to be tongue-and-cheek and goofy. Had the movie went all-in on the action-comedy, it would have been much more enjoyable as a whole.
Still, at just over an hour and twenty minutes, there isn’t a whole lot of time to be wasted. The action sequences are pretty average and don’t have particularly complex choreography, but there’s enough of a firefight to keep the film moving. And the dialogue, while not especially smart, is plenty wry to crack a smile.
And like any great heist movie, the biggest strength here is the ensemble of eccentric characters that make up the crew. What makes this film particularly interesting, though, is the fact that it tries to bust some of the archetypes by changing the characters in small but effective and powerful ways.
Luke Goss’s performance in the lead role is shockingly decent, having a lot of the qualities of the traditional action hero. He looks endlessly cool, has great comedic timing, and can handle the action well. The other high-profile star in the movie is Val Kilmer, and while he isn’t terrible, it feels like almost every one of his lines was re-recorded with ADR.
The film should also be praised on a technical level for having much more style than the typical B-grade action movie. The cinematography by Stefan Colson is legitimately good, with some shots that are extremely pleasing aesthetically. Additionally, the soundtrack is pretty slick and complements the movie well.
Paydirt isn’t high entertainment, but it does its formula in a simple and satisfying way. For those looking for a mindlessly action film to occupy eighty minutes of their time, this may just scratch that itch.
Paydirt hits VOD on August 7.