Payback is also known as The Debt Collectors or The Debt Collector 2 and is a sequel to 2018’s The Debt Collector which also starred Scott Adkins (Avengement, Dr Strange) and Louis Mandylor (Astro, Martial Law) in the lead roles of French and Sue respectively. This film picks up some time after the events of the original, and while there is some initial confusion regarding the events in this film, the script does an admirable job of explaining things so everyone is up to speed.
Sue has been employed to collect the debts owed to a gangster by the name of Barbosa (played in the previous film by the incomparable Tony Todd), with one stipulation: his old partner French must help him. The two set out on an epic road trip, but what starts off as a seemingly simple job begins to change into something neither of them were expecting. The story isn’t really one to set the world on fire, but it’s carried along by the chemistry between Adkins and Mandylor.
Each of the people they visit stand out in their own way, with debts being collected from the likes of infamous crime boss Mal Reese (Marina Sirtis – Star Trek, Mass Effect) and biker Cyrus Skinner (Vernon Wells – Innerspace, Mad Max 2), with the confrontation in the boxing gym being my personal favourite, not only for the action scenes but for the banter and rapport between the characters. With each collection, more of the story is revealed. Why are there two men with guns following them? Why is their employer Tommy seemingly so unwilling to provide them with more details? And why were they told it had to be French who came with them?
I went into this hoping for another over-the-top romp like Avengement but this is actually a much tamer affair. There are still some scenes where Adkins gets to show off his physicality and there is a viscerally nasty fight scene in the latter half of the film, but if you go into this hoping for lots of face-crunching action you’re going to walk away unsatisfied. The other big set piece is a gunfight at the end of the film and it’s, uhm… did anyone in this film actually shoot a gun before they filmed this? I’ve seen wannabe “gangstas” in Youtube videos who looked more confident and compelling with a gun than this lot.
Nitpicks aside, this is by no means a bad film, but the story is pedestrian and the action scenes too spaced out to give a real adrenaline fix. This film rises and falls on whether or not the audience can be convinced to come along for the ride with these two seeming middle-aged enforcers as they bicker like a married couple – and here it delivers in spades.
Sue and French and their relationship is definitely the core of the film and the duo of Adkins and Mandylor are a pleasure on screen, with that wonderful kind of semi-antagonistic friendship that can be a delight to watch. Another nitpick though, is that Mandylor’s thick accent takes a moment or two to get your ears dialled into so it makes sense. Think Stallone in Rocky, then punch him in the face a couple of times so he’s REALLY slurring things and you’ll have an idea of what Sue sounds like.
As sequels go, Payback is a pretty solid entry, with good performances all round, decent action scenes and a story that, while kind of forgettable on its own, does take what the original laid down and builds on it. Everything you could ask for in a follow-up. But does it stand on its own as a film worth watching, worth purchasing, worth spending time to watch? In my opinion, strictly one for streaming only.
Payback is available to own on digital download from 8th June and on DVD from 6th July.