The new movie HELL TO PAY is only a little more than an hour long, but since it’s modeled, at least to a certain extent, after the film noir B-movies of the Forties, that’s a good length for it. This is no period piece, though. Written, produced, and directed by Jay Jennings, HELL TO PAY is set in present-day Los Angeles. It’s the story of Teddy Greene, a low-level hoodlum and collector for a loan shark. As played by Charles Santore in an excellent performance, Teddy is something of a shark himself, always moving, always dangerous, ready to explode into violence at any second as he confronts people who owe money to his boss.
This isn’t what you’d call a feel-good movie. Almost everybody in it is foul-mouthed and unsympathetic, including Teddy. There are a few cracks in his tough exterior, though. He can be loyal to an old friend. He can take pity on somebody who has it even worse than he does (although not on any of the deadbeats he’s trying to collect from). Along the way we meet his father as well, and it’s no surprise that Teddy turned out the way he did.
The cast turns in uniformly good performances, and Jennings’ gritty, documentary-style, black-and-white photography is exceptional. Unfortunately, all you can see at the moment is the movie’s trailer, which is available at the film’s website. It’s about to hit the film festival circuit in an attempt to secure some distribution. There’s also a Facebook page for it. Remember that title, HELL TO PAY, and the writer/director’s name, Jay Jennings. Maybe there’ll be a DVD release sometime in the future, and if there is, fans of bleak, tough crime films definitely need to check this one out.
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