Paydirt feels more like fast food than haute cuisine.”

By Ali Moosavi.

Christian Sesma, the writer-director of Paydirt, has certainly an interesting resume. Already a successful restaurateur from Palm Springs, he also made “HBO’s first under-a-million-dollar action film acquired in over a decade.” The resume also informs us he has made a name for himself in the indie action space as a genre filmmaker.

Paydirt starts with a prologue in which a Mexican hombre, looking as though Clint Eastwood had just walked out of a Sam Peckinpah film, moves in slow motion with a cigar in his mouth. He is clearly a gang leader, overseeing his henchmen digging to find some hidden loot. We then see a DEA raid on drug smugglers gone bad, with a pile of dead bodies and a find of only a small amount of weed. The blame is put on Sherif Tucker (Val Kilmer, looking more like Penguin than Batman) and he is relieved of his duties.

Flash forward five years. Now, writer-director Sesma introduces various characters in the film, using Tarantino style large bold letters indicating their nicknames. In case the audience is not familiar with ex-Bros band member, and wannabe Jason Statham, Luke Goss, he is introduced as THE BRIT. A chick lounging about in a bikini by the pool is THE BABE. An African-American girl hammering her fists on a punch bag by the same pool is THE BADASS. A hunk pumping iron in the gym is THE BRAWN. The only bespectacled character is THE BRAINS. The obviously rich guy on a fancy golf course with a cigar in his mouth is THE DON.

The plot involves all the above characters and more, looking for some lost loot. Val Kilmer’s daughter, Mercedes Kilmer, who plays Sherif Tucker’s daughter, has a couple of scenes with her dad which are of zero consequence to the movie’s plot, in which she gets to tell him, “you’ll always be my dad no matter how shitty your life becomes.”

The movie goes back and forth in time, a la Tarantino but both the threadbare storyline and the cardboard characters fail to make any sort of impression. Perhaps the exception is THE BRIT, or Lukas Goss who, on the evidence of this film, could fill in for Jason Statham in movies where the budget doesn’t stretch into hiring Statham.

Paydirt is strictly B movie. Even though Christian Sesma, its writer-director was a successful restaurateur, Paydirt feels more like fast food than haute cuisine. The main selling point of these B movie action films are action and sex and there’s a fairly generous dose of both on view here, which should satisfy the fans of this particular genre. One yearns though for the return of Val Kilmer of Heat (1995) and The Doors (1991).

Paydirt is in theaters, on Demand, and Digital August 7th.

Ali Moosavi has worked in documentary television and has written for Film Magazine (Iran), Cine-Eye (London), and Film International (Sweden). He contributed to the second volume of the The Directory of World Cinema: Iran (Intellect, 2015).

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