‘Paydirt’: Film Review

Val Kilmer plays a supporting role as a disgraced sheriff in Christian Sesma’s crime flick ‘Paydirt.’

A movie bad enough for summer 2020 but far too unmemorable to actually serve as its mascot, Christian Sesma’s Paydirt forces one to assume the writer/director sat down one morning to write his own Guy Ritchie-meets-Oceans caper, told himself, “hey, this is a breeze!” and got up before lunchtime having finished a script few other people would recognize as a movie at all. Numbingly dumb and impersonally executed, you’d call it derivative if only it managed to steal anything worth using from the many movies it apes. The pic may attract minor interest as a post-cancer outing for Val Kilmer, whose dialogue has been dubbed with minimal effort to match the actor’s pre-tracheotomy voice. The onetime scene-stealer looks like he wanted to give producers their money’s worth, but fans would be wiser to let him recuperate in peace, awaiting some project that deserves his efforts, or, failing that, another starstruck profile in The New York Times Magazine.

Kilmer plays Sheriff Tucker, who left his job in disgrace after a botched drug bust. Tucker has gone to seed in the intervening six years, haunted by his failure to catch The Brit (Luke Goss) with the goods.

The Bottom Line

Razzie season begins in earnest.

RELEASE DATE Aug 07, 2020

Ah, The Brit: His nom de crime splashes onto the screen when he’s introduced, a tired device that will be repeated for each of his B-named B-movie colleagues: The Brains (Mike Hatton), the Brawn (Paul Sloan), the Babe (Murielle Telio) and the Badass (Veronika Bozeman). If you think the only man missing from the team is The Bore, well, each of these duds can double in that role.

This generic crew broke up when the Brit was sent to prison six years ago. Now that he’s served his time, Sesma offers twenty or thirty minutes of the most groan-inducing “getting the band back together” exposition ever put onscreen. When, for instance, we learn that the team’s two women have hooked up during hiatus, one character lustfully growls, “The Babe and the Badass. You know, I kinda feel that in my nutsack.” Later, when someone complains to the Babe that she was “always the bossy one,” the Badass reaffirms her importance in the drama: “And the hot one.” There we have it.

It seems that around the end of their time together, the Brit stole $33 million that belonged to a cartel boss. Or, as a caricatured gang-banger puts it, “you fucked with El Gordo, ese!” Viewers are advised not to try to follow the crew’s pursuit of that money: When the film’s closing dialogue comes out and utters the word MacGuffin, it’s only a reminder of how poorly the movie uses the buried treasure to motivate heist-y scenes that, say, pair Brawn and Brains up as a (very) poor man’s Casey Affleck and Scott Caan in search of a computer server. (Per the Brawn: “So, we hack the mainframe’s database, some shit like that…”)

Blessed with the most indulgent parole officer (Mirtha Michelle) he could get — you keep waiting for a scene revealing that she’s his former girlfriend or something — The Brit sends his crew off on assorted chores while the movie reminds us occasionally of Sheriff Tucker’s existence. It turns out the lawman has a daughter about to become District Attorney, and the fact that she’s played by Kilmer’s own daughter Mercedes may do something to explain the actor’s presence here — though scenes between the two are as perfunctory as everything else in the script.

When the movie finally does give Kilmer something substantial to do, it’s as ill-considered as everything else here: Stalking the bad guys, Tucker hides behind a palm tree with a machine gun at the ready. It’s a pose that can only remind fans of the thrilling shootout in Heat, a film released just as Kilmer’s star was starting to fade. The comparison does nobody any good.

Production companies: Octane Entertainment, Tons of Hats, Seskri Productions
Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment
Cast: Luke Goss, Val Kilmer, Mike Hatton, Paul Sloan, Nick Vallelonga, Mercedes Kilmer, Mirtha Michelle, Mara Fimbres, V. Bozeman
Director-Screenwriter: Christian Sesma
Producers: Jack Campbell, Luke Goss, Mike Hatton, Christian Sesma
Executive producer: Gary Rubens
Director of photography: Stefan Colson
Production designer: Russell Jones
Editor: Eric Potter
Composer: Nima Fakhrara

85 minutes