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DVD Review

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Starring: Luke Goss, Val Kilmer, Mike Hatton, Mirtha Michelle, Nick Vallelonga, Mercedes Kilmer and Paul Sloan
Distributor: 101 Films / Octane Entertainment
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 24 August 2020

Writer/Director Christian Sesma and Director of Photography Stefan Colson reach further than their grasp in this direct release (like almost everything else these lockdown days) low-budget, indie-action shoot’em up, but get an E for effort and an A for ambition, if not acting. Other reviews have picked on Kilmer’s laid back low-res performance as a slouch but this is unfair considering the star’s recent bout with throat cancer and his announcement of a tracheostomy. He appears throughout this short sleeve desert setting in high collars and woolly neck scarves and has vowed to keep working. I wish him the highest and greatest fortune and say, it’s good to see him, especially in scenes with his daughter. These are the most vital exchanges in the picture. The rest of the time Kilmer is in a compressed wave length of his dramatic spectrum.

Though Paydirt is filmed in the Coachella Valley and around the Salton Sea, it isn’t the Kilmer classic Salton Sea (2002). Notice how I pick that one to express my appreciation of this first magnitude luminary; don’t knock the Val unless you’ve seen it and somehow rationalize jaundice for his cool. In Paydirt he’s more monolithic than dynamic but that’s okay. Salton Sea opens with him playing a blues jazz trumpet with the building he’s in burning up, walls, ceiling everything ablaze. Ultimate cool.

Luke Goss (Hellboy II)carries the fire here. Or tries. AKA “The Brit,” he’s been done wrong and sent to the grey bar hotel for half a decade. It’s one of the most indifferent prison sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie. The Brit wants the millions he’s heisted from a DEA bust gone bad still buried in the desert. Assembling his gang of hard wired hard cases we’re given a scent of something fun to come in their individual introductions. Sadly this too is all smoke and no fire. The acting is uniformly yawn-inducing. Tarantino on the rocks. Cracking up. Val Kilmer can’t be blamed. A tide can only raise all canoes so far. Palm Springs dinner theatre is better than this.

The story middles out, where else? In the middle and never regains take-off speed. Kilmer is a retired sheriff with a long standing grudge for The Brit. A cartel boss gets wind of the Brit’s buried treasure and it’s a bloody dogpile under the sun. Sesma dwells on flashbacks to beef up motivation, character and narrative betrayals and Colson’s judicious macro shots and drone aerials are meant to give the picture a “big” look. But the cast isn’t as big as the aspiration. As you’ve probably determined, I don’t think Kilmer is wrong even when he is wrong in his choices. It gets down to Goss and he tries but his quietude, meant to be heavy, is lame. Nobody but Kilmer is fun to watch, even when he’s snoozing.

The Octane Entertainment/Ton of Hats/Seskri Produktionz presentation from UK’s 101Films (my review copy was from Sonopress Archiving & Digitisation) immediately calls to mind Robert Rodriguez, never a bad template when budget is low and dreams are high. The problem here, again, is inspiration. The Coachella Valley light is prettier than this. Dancing between too much diffusion and uninteresting flatness, there is no painting with light. It’s a wash but, I think, an important Val Kilmer document.


John Huff

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