Given the headlines of the past week, it’s only suitable that director Joseph Mensch’s timely arrival with Payback gets some air time for moviegoers. Not so much the intriguing cryptocurrency finance thriller though, the film is definitely a feasible crime thriller that serves its purpose for the most part.
Opens in 1992 New York City, we meet Wall Street stockbroker Mike Markovich (Matt Levett), on top of his game at the Mob-connected firm he works for as “the king of the one-call close”. Mike, for what it’s worth is adroit as he is ambitious – characteristics that clearly don’t bode well between him and his boss, Mr. Zhukov (Toby Leonard Moore), as quiet as the tension is beneath the friendly veneer.
Adding to the stakes is the baby Mark and loving wife Judi (Anna Baryshnikov) are having in two weeks, which makes it all the more important to prioritize whilst minding Mr. Zhukov’s latest request: A week-long excursion to Los Angeles to see The Dentist – a.k.a. Slava (Boris Lee Krutonog), about helping him put together a legitimate coffee business.
Once there and the formalities are done, Mark and two cohorts set out to acquire Slava’s seed money from a seperate location, only for things to go south with guns blazing and Mark questioned by the police, and soon forced to do a six-year stint in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Once out, Mark starts to face some serious choices between rekindling his marriage and connecting with his young daughter, and settling old scores that could very well tear his family apart in more ways than he thought.
Falling short of being the kind of Oliver Stone-directed paragon as far as Wall Street thrillers go, Payback moreso nods at the kind of ex-con revenge genre that fans of Ric Roman Waugh can take a liking to, and for that, Mensch doesn’t falter much in his efforts here. The film is amply paced and well-rounded with characters, providing a lean backdrop of villains for our protagonist to go toe-to-toe with, and essentially balances it all out with a palpable subplot surrounding Mark’s own development as someone who can’t get away from his usual penchants, serving aptly to the film’s deeper messaging.
Payback saves the bulk of the action and violence until the third act, which is enough to whet the appetite through to the end. Enough happens in between for the film to be substantive and compelling at times, and the performances are mostly solid, with enough suspense to carry you until the end credits.
Payback arrives on Digital and VOD beginning February 5 from Vertical Entertainment.