BluRay/DVD Reviews

HELL TO PAY

By • Feb 15th, 2011 •

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A simple definition of “Neo Noir” is any film that can successfully reference the film noir sensibilities of the 1940s crime drama with black-and-white photography and gritty locations with an urban backdrop of moral decay. Director Jay Jennings’ clever homage to film’s like Abel Ferrara’s BAD LIEUTENANT, as well as, Martin Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS, uses to great effect the seedy urban nightmare that is 21st century Hollywood.

HELL TO PAY focuses on a day in the life of Teddy Greene, a soulless character played to the hilt by Charles Santore with a hopeless self-loathing that makes him unpredictably violent and truly frightening. Teddy is a debt collector by trade who works for an equally corrupt loan shark named Tony Stone (Rob Young), a Century City tax attorney.

We follow Teddy as he slices his way through the underbelly of Los Angeles with all it’s many shades of black and gray. This man really enjoys hurting people, trusting in his power of intimidation to beat the cash out of them if required and it always seems to be required. The acting and direction is very cinéma vérité, which is to the film’s advantage since we never get a sense we are watching a movie but more like we are looking through a glass darkly at the human zoo of freaks, pimps and hookers. We are taken from Hollywood & Vine to Silver Lake, from pawnshops to sleazy hotel rooms and onward, including the worn out Asian hooker, a character that has since become a staple in this kind of film. Jennings guides his audience on a vicarious thrill ride at the victim’s expense. There is no redemption for Teddy Greene, who is less an anti-hero than a full-out demonic presence, even during a father-son reunion of sorts, Teddy would rather give his father some quick cash to simply get him out of his life, rather than try any intervention to find the decent side of an already dammed soul.

In HELL TO PAY, Jay Jennings has given us a relentless ride through the city of angels with nods to such film noir classics as OUT OF THE PAST and ON DANGEROUS GROUND as well as, the gritty realism of Guy Ritchie’s films, using the same archetypes of film noir, choosing his leads as anti-heroes, with dark agents like Teddy Greene collecting his fees from the doomed folks that owe him their lives.

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