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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Charles Santore, Rob Young, Pauli Macy, Neil Dooley, Cherie Gossin, Anise Labrum
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Jay Jennings
MPAA RATING
NR (Equiv. to "R")
RUNNING TIME
60 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Independent
 "Hell to Pay" Review 
A gritty and foul-mouthed tip o' the hat to 50's film noir and 70's hardcore crime thrillers, Jay Jennings' Hell to Pay lives and breathes through the sociopath named Teddy Greene (Charles Santore), a relentlessly brutal debt collector who works for an equally relentless and brutal loan shark (Rob Young).

Shot in black-and-white DV seemingly all over Los Angeles, Hell to Pay doesn't pretend to have a moral to its story. Instead, the film could best be called an almost gleeful romp through the sadistic world of a sadistic guy who does sadistic things to virtually everyone along his path. You could think of Teddy Greene as a cousin to Christian Bale's Oscar winning turn as Dicky Ecklund in 2010's The Fighter. The two characters share that same inner core of self-loathing manifested outwardly in ways both destructive and self-destructive. Unlike The Fighter, there's no Hallmark greeting ending here but there is a performance by Charles Santore that somehow manages to remain sympathetic even as he's brutalizing nearly everyone who has the balls to not pay up when the bill is due.

There's nothing reserved about Teddy Greene, and Charles Santore is hilariously offensive as Hell to Pay occasionally plays with such a sense of "matter of fact" that it almost feels like we're watching a documentary on the life of Teddy Greene. Writer/director Jennings doesn't excuse Greene's behavior, but neither does he condemn it. Instead, he sort of paints Greene as a refreshingly straightforward sociopath surrounded by people whose ill-fated and ill-fitting lives are filled with masks of deception in character and action such as a junkie priest and other seemingly ordinary folks who aren't quite living ordinary lives. Say what you want about Teddy Greene, but what you see is what you get.

Jennings also serves as D.P. on the film, and his pristine black-and-white imagery embodies the film with both its grittiness and its stark humanity. Jennings' last film, Loanshark, proved to be quite popular on the film festival circuit, and one could easily expect Hell to Pay to follow suit. At a mere 60 minutes, too long to be considered a short film yet shorter than most full-length features, the film may be hard-pressed to find a theatrical release but those who discover this indie gem won't be disappointed.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
    The Official Rating Guideline
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    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
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