Payback Season


Reviewed by: Sophie Monks Kaufman

Payback Season
"An ambitious but flawed story about an estate kid turned football pro that disappears between the two world it wants to depict."

First we had Moneyball, a baseball film with not much baseball. Now, we have Payback Season, a football film with not much football. Unlike the Oscar-nominated Moneyball, Payback Season is a failure, an ambitious but flawed story about an estate kid turned football pro that disappears between the two world it wants to depict.

The narrative begins with Jerome, played by BAFTA rising star winner Adam Deacon, in a cool car ogling a bootlicious honey. Can there be a cheesier shorthand for success? Yes. Jerome decides to foot the bill for the best night Premiership wages can buy to show his old estate mates, “I’m still Jerome from the block.” After the limo, female entourage, leather-upholstered club and lashings of Cristal have run their course, the estate’s kingpin and Jerome’s ex-bezzie, Baron (David Ajala) asks if he can borrow £15k to keep cash flowing in his drug dealing business. Should Jerome live the socialist dream and distribute his wealth among less fortunate contemporaries? Or is it time to cut the cord and look after his new life?

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The launch of this intriguing moral question is where Payback Season peaks. An unconvincing romance with the only middle-class character – a seductive journalist played with sub-Radcliffe hamminess by Nichola Burley – glues together scenes at an unnamed football club, where Jerome’s day job is illustrated by a couple of people dribbling between cones and scenes of an increasingly grim nature at the estate where Jerome’s brother and mother, aka blackmail fodder, still live. Emptiness undermines realism at every turn. The cast run around a set that, on 28 Days Later would signify the zombie apocalypse but in this scenario signifies not enough extras were hired.

In this empty space, the echo of so many wooden performances rings out with distressing candour. Deacon does his best as a man trying to do right by his past and future. Old friend/arch nemesis Ajala is the other competent professional, whose plasticine face and calmness in the eye of violence remind you that the scariest man in the room is often the quietest. But this pair are dancing with each on a mountain of nothing. An oppressive dance soundtrack undercuts tension (director Danny Donnelly couldn’t resist channeling his other career as creator of Surburban Base Records) and flashy special effects, which could have been a reflection of the habits of the nouveau riche if only these other footballers were depicted, are utterly meaningless.

The football world is reduced to one loyal physiotherapist (Leo Gregory) When this poor sap approaches Baron with the line, “You’re affecting Jerome’s [sic] game” the only audience response is, “What game?” Payback Season is a film so preoccupied with the task of creating an important story that it has forgotten to make it believable. By the time the climax comes around, you won’t care any more.

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2012
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Payback Season packshot
The world of a hotshot Premiership footballer finds his life turned upside down after a run in with the crew from his old estate.
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Director: Danny Donnelly

Writer: Danny Donnelly, Jenny Fitzpatrick

Starring: Anna Popplewell, Adam Deacon, Nicola Posener, Alex Esmail, Nichola Burley, Nina Young, Leo Gregory, Louisa Lytton, Bronson Webb, Zaraah Abrahams, Sinead Moynihan, Kelly Wenham, David Ajala, Kylie Hutchinson, Ike Hamilton

Year: 2012

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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