Payback Season Review: A Platitude Problem
“Put the kettle on” has never taken on more ominous tones than when executed by Baron, the shady London council estate impresario embroiled in a dubious and really quite murderous “cash-flow thing”. Needless to say the result is an Earl Grey, a beating, and a hellish scalding all round. Twelve bloody lumps and no milk, please.
This odd yet unintentionally hilarious combination of excessive violence and clumsily naive dialogue is at the heart of this wannabe gritty, London-based “urban thriller”, which closely follows the gaudy white Ferrari of a council estate “badman” done good, getting his shiny-shirted self into all kinds of scrapes.
Jerome Davies (played by poor little Adam Deacon who presumably is now weeping silently in prayer that his recent BAFTA Rising Star Award will catapult him out of the grey planes of Kidulthood land forever) is a professional footballer who is “living the dream” – this film is more platitude than attitude – with “bare” girls (in both the naked and numerous sense), black stretch hummers shipping him off to clubs in Mayfair, and the obligatory swanky flat devoid of any semblance of personality or hope.
But unfortunately, the career of “England’s next wonder boy” suffers as he misses all the gruelling stretching exercises (a handful of extras half-heartedly touching their toes) required of a full-time professional sportsman, as he becomes entangled in the aforementioned money troubles of his old acquaintance, Baron – played by the talented David Ajala, whose stoic, knowing eyes seem always to be in on the joke that he is wasted on this film.
A threatening wubwubwub of dubstep beats follows Baron around throughout – the unmistakable fan fair for the arrival of an urban baddie. Indeed, the entire N-Dubz-addled soundtrack and constant camera flicks to Nike logos, cans of Foster’s and Apple products paint the film as an R&B music video-cum-advert – perhaps unsurprisingly, as debut director Danny Donnelly owns a drum ‘n’ bass record label.
Jerome is blackmailed into further ambiguous dealings (let’s just say he’s not paying off Baron’s student debt – he’d need far more for that) at the risk of his career, family, and friends.
And such friends! First, we have Andy, whose position we learn from some subtle exposition – “you’re my physio and you’re my mate”, swanning around with his distracting torso, occasionally giving us a cheeky wink. Then there’s the love interest, posh totty Lisa, who he likes to call “Princess”. Unable to keep up with the vagaries of Jerome’s lifestyle, she often stands by a river, looking sad, with an iPhone. A beautiful journalist, whose writing one can only hope reflects her spoken word: “you know what I feel about mixing business with pleasure” and “you’re nearly in my good books”, are among her wooden flirtations. Oh Princess, don’t tease.
Between slo-mo fight scenes with artistically imploding tellies and blurred close-up sequences of distressed faces, the parody of hedonism – all Cristal glugging, penthouse dwelling and gratuitous movie-star kissing – is very entertaining to watch. But then, cue portentous wubwub, Baron inevitably brings the story to a horrifying close, as a clunking symbol of inescapable gang culture, of course.