‘The Pay Day’ Review: A Heist Film Without Much to Do

Heist films are really some of the most exciting films you can watch as a member of the audience. The genre can, like no other, make the audience feel part of the story. A good heist film sets you up by meeting the characters, getting invested in their stories and motivations, and then simply seeing if they manage to score big during the heist. It doesn’t matter if they fail or succeed. You, as a member of the audience, will be on the edge of your seat as you watch scene after scene. The Pay Day is a new heist film that sadly falls short of all of this.

The Pay Day is a film directed by Sam Bradford and stars Kyla Frye, Sam Benjamin, Simon Callow, and Ellen Thomas. The film tells the story of a poor computer programmer called Jenn, who, after losing her job, sees herself in desperate times. One day, she receives a phone call from a mysterious individual. The mysterious individual brings forth a proposal that could leave Jenn as a rich woman. However, for that to happen, Jenn will need to leave her entire being behind and get ready to do things she never thought she would.

The heist film genre is filled with great examples: Heat, Criss Cross, The Killing, and even Inception. All these films let the audience get themselves next to the criminals who will execute the crime in question. To do this is to give the audience the feeling of being part of something they would never do in real life. Most people are ready to avoid confrontation, and the idea of stealing something that doesn’t belong to them is just a mere fantasy. This is why heist films are so entertaining and exciting to watch.

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The Pay Day tries to do just that and bring the audience with it for a heist that might leave our protagonist a rich woman. When the movie begins, the setup seems quite interesting, and it makes you wonder where the movie is going. However, as the first act finishes and the second act begins, the movie finds itself without any surprises, twists, or important moments. What is left for the rest of the movie is a lot of spinning wheels around a very small set and a plot that seems to be waiting, so it can reach the 90-minute mark.

The problem with The Pay Day is exactly the fact that for a heist movie to work, there needs to be stakes, twists, and always being one step ahead of the audience. If your heist movie becomes predictable, then all the tension evaporates, and then the worst could happen, making the audience wait for the movie to catch up to them. The Pay Day just doesn’t have enough story to make the movie run for a very long time, and thus stretches itself constantly by putting the characters through a loop that doesn’t seem to end.

The second act is truly treading water, and it is there that the movie becomes boring. The script definitely fails its actors, who are doing the best they can with the material they have been given. Kyla Frye seems like a very charismatic actress, and she plays our main character in such a way that makes her feel genuine, as truly one person getting into a situation that is way above her head. Sadly, the story offers her zero to no characterization, and in the end, it results in it being very hard to describe her character, other than as being just a normal person.

The same can be said for Sam Benjamin. The actor has a good look, and he seems to be able to exude charm whenever he wants. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t give him enough to do. He is the idea of a thief, but never fully fulfills that promise. There are a couple of funny moments coming from him and his interactions with Frye, but they are not enough to raise the movie from the boring grave in which it was buried. Meanwhile, Simon Callow chews the scenery left and right, and the movie is better for it.

Visually, the movie has that now familiar look of a movie shot digitally that is completely ruined by the lighting. Everything seems to be over-lit, and it makes the entire movie feel like it is being shot inside a mall or a Walmart. Where are the shadows and the little imperfections that make your brain realize that something is happening in real life? They are nowhere to be seen. This is a huge problem with most of the movies that are being made right now for streaming services and on-demand.

In the end, the charming actors cannot raise the bar for this movie. A heist film should be exciting, surprising, and, most of all, fun. There are a couple of comedy bits here and there coming from the actors, but the plot feels incomplete. Maybe a couple more drafts would have saved the story from being a complete bore. There are better choices to watch out there if what you are looking for is a great heist film.

SCORE: 5/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.