“Do you want to carry on playing by the rules, or do you want to play the game?”
The Pay Day is a fun two-hander mystery / comedy that knows its success hinges on the chemistry of its charming leads and uses them to great effect. Jennifer (Kyla Frye) is an IT technician who is overworked, underpaid and at the end of her rope. Things take a turn for the worse when her company fires her, but there’s a glimmer of unexpected hope when a mysterious man named Gates (Simon Callow) appears to give her the offer of a lifetime: Help him with an electronic heist, and she’ll never want for money again.
Gates tells Jennifer her unique skillset would be an asset, at which she scoffs. But the offer is interesting and the potential rewards are great enough that she finds herself at the center of a low-key act of corporate espionage. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one on the job, as a competing interest reveals itself in the form of George (Sam Benjamin), a suave gentleman whose identity and motive seems constantly in flux. Their chemistry adds an element of danger that propels them to an unexpected end.
Director Sam Bradford (who co-wrote with Frye) imbues the film with an immediate energy, using creative cuts and smart sound design to make the most out of a limited number of settings and environments. The film largely takes place within the same office building, in generic rooms and hallways and closets. However, it never feels claustrophobic or trapped within the confines of a production budget. It’s well-shot but never gets in the way of the main event, which are Jennifer and George’s antagonistic flirtations.
It’s easy for a heist story with so many twists and turns to lean into attempts at cleverness, but thankfully Bradford and Frye avoid the common pratfalls and keep focused. The script balances comedy and caper very effectively, giving Frye and Callow room to play with their complicated criminals. Although there are plenty of twists and turns, it’s clear by the end, and nothing feels convoluted or overly tricky.
The Pay Day is a very confidently made thriller with likable leads, good comedy and a strong story that keeps you guessing.