A sloppy montage finds talented athlete Jerome (Adam Deacon) working his way up the ranks to Premier league footie star. A kid from the estate done good, he still finds time in his hectic A-list status to visit his mum and younger brother back at his old stomping ground.
Running into his old crew whilst visiting his family one day, he invites them out for a night on the town where he treats them to the perks which come with his enviable lifestyle. Agreeing to help out ringleader Baron with some money woes, his misplaced sense of loyalty and friendship brings him a whole heap of trouble, and soon he’s embroiled in a blackmail plot and fighting to save his impressionable sibling from resorting to a life of petty crime with the gang.
Containing the most frequent use of the word “bruv” in motion picture history, Payback Season plays like a blander than usual after-hours episode of Hollyoaks with guns and swearing, dredging up all the unsavoury and tired stereotypes associated with the ‘urban film’ sub-genre and bringing all of that together in a quality-bereft 90 minutes of cinema. It seems astounding that financiers seem perfectly willing to reach into their pockets and fund films where zero attempt has been made at cobbling together anything resembling a cohesive script and story.
It’s a sloppy, immature and almost unwatchable affair, and no attempt whatsoever is made to try and establish any cinematic flair. It’s clearly a low-budget effort and this is particularly apparent through the ‘Friends’-style establishing shots which attempt to set the scene (although the makers have still managed to sneak a couple of those huge, completely unnecessary swooping images of central London) but that’s no excuse in delivering such shoddy work.
From the ropey cinematography and lifeless direction, to the intrusive overpowering grime-y/dubstep soundtrack which drowns out the possibility of breathing some kind of emotion into any of the scenes, it looks like a bad student film.
Deacon is the least convincing footballer ever to grace the screen (quite a coup), and by far the most gullible and stupid (when his old mate asks to lend £10000 to help alleviate a “cash flow” problem, he never questions this and continues helping him out until things turn predictably ugly) and as an actor, he simply isn’t up to carrying this film on his own. The rest of his co-stars fare much worse (tragically, Geoff Hurst has actually been roped in to play the part of Jerome’s manager) with only David Ajala as the psychotic Baron showing any palpable presence on screen. It’s just unfortunate that he’s such a one-dimensional villain (in one scene he bludgeons a disloyal minion with a plastic kettle and we’re treated to an hilarious POV shot from the poor guy’s face with the kettle being artificially thrust back and forth).
Cliché after cliché is piled on until the ‘tragically ironic’ ending, and when one of the young stars from Attack the Block briefly appears, his presence only helps to remind you of what can be achieved by a decent filmmaker using a similar terrain to tell his story (in fact, an alien invasion makes for a markedly more realistic set-up than what happens here).
With any luck, Payback Season will slump off to the land of DTV after a week on the big screen (a place where it clearly belongs), but it’s still an incredibly disheartening experience for anyone to sit through a film which has been made without any real trace of passion or genuine interest. That uninspired attitude extents across to the film’s thoroughly misleading and bland promo artwork, which gives the impression that some kind of glittery romcom is offered up amongst the action. Payback Season is upon us. Avoid at all costs.