Paydirt Review: A Guy Ritchie Knockoff That Fails as A Heist Flick
Paydirt is a godawful Guy Ritchie knockoff that fails utterly as a heist flick. A British parolee wrangles his old crew for one last big score in the California desert. Luke Goss does his Jason Statham impersonation surrounded by painfully dumb supporting characters. Who’ve got nifty nicknames like “The Brit”, “The Babe”, and “The Badass.” They bumble about in a hackneyed plot peppered with terrible action scenes. A clearly ill Val Kilmer co-stars to the best of his abilities. He struggles in this performance while recovering from throat cancer.
The film opens “five years ago” in the Coachella Valley. Sheriff Tucker (Val Kilmer) leads a DEA raid on a known drug trafficker, Damien Brooks (Luke Goss) aka “The Brit.” A shootout ends with innocent lives lost and a paltry amount of marijuana discovered. Tucker gets his man, but takes the fall for the bungled operation. The Brit receives a much shorter sentence for possession. Meanwhile, the head of a Mexican cartel (Jay Montalvo) wonders what happened to his $33 million dollars.
The Brit is paroled when marijuana is legalized. He’s assigned a sultry parole officer (Mirtha Michelle) to help him reintegrate back into society. The Brit not so quietly recruits his former gang. The now retired Sheriff Tucker has him under surveillance. He refuses to let this last adversary slip away. The Brit is also being watched by the vengeful Mexicans he ripped off. Everyone wants to know what happened to the money, and how the Brit plans to recover it.
Writer/director Christian Sesma (Vigilante Diaries, The Night Crew) struggles with style and substance. He crafts cardboard characters in the vein of Guy Ritchie’s hipster gangsters. They say a lot, but literally achieve nothing. “The Brains” and “The Brawn” are a disparate duo meant to add comic relief. Their absurd hijinks fall miserably flat. A search for a computer server may be the stupidest scene of the year. Val Kilmer’s daughter, Mercedes, makes her feature film debut as a district attorney. Her role is completely inconsequential to the plot’s ludicrous resolve. The other female characters exist purely as sexpots to lure men.
Paydirt‘s lame plot and characters could have been rescued by ass-kicking action. There is no bullet-riddled gunplay or bone-crushing fisticuffs. Christian Sesma, who’s made a career of indie action movies, plays it piecemeal. We don’t even get an actual heist. The violence is poorly staged, either for budgetary reasons or lack of imagination. It would have been more entertaining if everyone just threw their guns at each other like dodgeball.
I have been a Val Kilmer fan since 1985’s Real Genius. As a kid, I pretended to be Iceman shooting down Maverick. Madmartigan was the best damn character in Willow. Doc Holliday’s “I’m your huckleberry” from Tombstone will forever hold a hallowed place in cinema’s bad-ass pantheon. Val Kilmer underwent a tracheotomy while battling throat cancer in 2015. His raspy voice is nearly unrecognizable here. It’s great to see Val Kilmer on screen, but he’s physically limited for an action role at this point of his career. Paydirt is a production of Octane Entertainment, Ton of Hats, and Seskri Produktionz. It will be released in theaters and streaming on demand August 7th from Uncork’d Entertainment.