The idea that hard work is enough to climb the economic ladder has largely become a mistake at the time of this writing. And if we’re being completely honest, that has never been realistic for large swaths of the world’s population, even in wealthy countries like the UK. Drawing on the tradition of funny heist movies across the pond, Sam Bradford’s The pay day is an eye-catching film that comments on these problematic issues. Yet it never loses sight of the film’s core mission of delivering an entertaining ride bolstered by charismatic performances from Kyla Frye and Sam Benjamin.
Frye plays Jennifer, a hardworking IT assistant unable to win the appreciation of her demanding and seemingly abusive boss, Mrs. Boomer (Ellen Thomas). Finally having enough of the abuse at her desk, Jennifer searches for a new job only to receive a mysterious call from Gates, a mysterious man played by Simon Callow. He offers her a chance to recover a large sum of money that the posh government and bank officials have practically stolen from the working class of the UK – the only catch being that it involves breaking and entering. a building in broad daylight and steal sensitive information.
Initially reluctant to embark on this illegal business, Gates’ promise of a large sum of money finally convinces her. During her daring flight, she is interrupted by a handsome man of mysterious origin, introduced as John Smith (Sam Benjamin). Is he friend? Enemy? A mixture of the two? Maybe it doesn’t matter because viewers will just be happy to be onscreen together, and the two are happily the main focus.
“…a chance to recover a large sum of money that the posh government and banking officials practically stole from the working class…”
Frye and Benjamin are an absolute blast in On payday, and there’s little chance the movie would have worked without their chemistry. Their interactions begin with cautious explorations of their roles in the building, but quickly turn into amusing banter full of sexual tension and natural curiosity. The plot presented by Bradford and company is not really new at first sight. Still, since it’s purely a mechanic for these two performers to come together on screen, it doesn’t prove too detrimental to the overall experience, as a successful two-player game doesn’t have any way no need for a lot of extra padding.
The pay day is a film brimming with formal precision, positioning Bradford as a more accomplished filmmaker than his filmography would indicate. With its quick editing and polished aesthetic, the film fits right into the family of London heist movies we love. The pervasive jazz score can be a little too much at times, but its propulsive quality adds to the energy of the film – not that this is a film that craves for an extra boost.
I’m also not sure that Cowell’s role is entirely necessary, and the overall heist plan is admittedly stupid. However, most heist movies aren’t exactly known for their propensity for realism, anyway. Those shortcomings, however, don’t stop the film from being sexy, fast-paced, and loaded with memorable interactions from Frye and Benjamin’s delightful couple. Most importantly, the film remains lighthearted and funny even when it nods slightly to social commentary. The pay day has something for everyone and shouldn’t be missed for those who want to have a good time, and isn’t everyone?