The Debt Collector is a 2017 crime drama, written and directed by film maker Jay Jennings. The movie follows a day in the life of Teddy Greene, a debt collector assigned to appropriate the growing debts accumulated by various clients around the city of Los Angeles. Teddy’s interactions with various clientele differs from person to person depending on the situation. He has a natural gift for analyzing his surroundings and surmising the best strategy for sending an intimidating message that will ensure desired results. This occupation would require Teddy to play many different characters depending on his situation. At times acting as a concerned and sympathetic friend, and instantaneously switching to violent sociopath assaulting his client and degrading them into submission. It was impossible to know which character Teddy would play when interacting with others and if his act would abruptly change. This added a level of excitement and unpredictability to each encounter.
The film was narrated by Teddy himself in the style of a 1970s crime drama. This narrative choice provided a glimpse into the complex and at times contradictory mindset of the debt collector. As a debt collector, Teddy’s world view is overlaid with an overt nihilistic and morally relativistic perspective. He takes no moral stance regarding his the violence actions, nor does he attempt to justify them as anything more than the cost of doing business. In Teddy’s eyes, his work is little more than one part of the chaotic and meaningless world he just happened to be born into. His clientele range from poor drug addicts and prostitutes, to well off college students. However, the differences circumstances and life choices amongst clients are irrelevant to Teddy. They’re all simply a means to an end regardless extraneous factors. They will pay him their debts, or they’ll suffer the consequences.
Despite Teddy’s ruthless outlook regarding his job, it would be disingenuous to consider him nothing more than an unfeeling nihilist. The scenes where Teddy isn’t working show a different side of him. Fondness for music as well as loyalty towards his friends are both apparent through his various undertakings. In one scene, Teddy gives money to a friend going through financial difficulties without any intent on ever being paid back. While this act may appear to contradict Teddy’s personality, it actually gives him depth of character that isn’t overtly apparent on the surface. This also establishes Teddy as an unreliable narrator, putting on a veneer of stoicism and shielding an array of emotion that even he may not be aware of himself.
Through a series of unwise decisions and betrayals, Teddy becomes an enemy of his employers. This ultimately forces him to leave town and go into hiding. In the final scene, it is stated that Teddy wishes to return to his life as a debt collector after his present dangers have passed. This statement is significant because is shows that of this while Teddy may hold certain values, he is still struggling to come terms with the competing philosophies held by the two sides of his personality.
The film is shot in a grainy black and white, reminiscent of classic noir films of the 1950’s. The sound and video quality are both top notch and the clean yet abrupt scene transitions helped keep this film flowing at a consistent and steady pace.
Like all movies, The Debt Collector isn’t without it’s flaws. Although Teddy’s interactions with different clients helped develop his character, his later interactions seemed like virtual duplicates of conflicts he had prior. The shake downs and intimidation attempts began to feel repetitive after awhile and did little advance the plot.
The climax, where Teddy confronts his former employers, is briefly shown at the start of the film. This made the events in the movie flashbacks told from Teddy’s subjective perspective. Unfortunately, the proceeding scenes did little lead into the foretold climax. This caused the ending to come off as rushed and the conflict seemed forced. Teddy had few interactions with his employers leading up to the final act, making the sudden betrayal and subsequent escape seem random and nearly unprovoked.
The Debt Collector can best be described as a case study into the mind of a man attempting to reconcile two different sides of his personality. On the one side, Teddy adopts a dispassionate and existential mindset necessary to endure his violent occupation. On the opposite side, Teddy’s genuine concern for others and appreciation for life outside his job shows a man with an inherent desire to find meaning within a seemingly meaningless world.
The Debt Collector is an interesting and well crafted story that manages to create an unexpectedly complex character. While the conclusion felt rushed, the story was well constructed and the stylistic choices created an engrossing environment that managed to be entertaining throughout it’s hour long duration. I would recommend The Debt Collector to any fans of crime dramas, or to anyone who can appreciate the steady character development of an unlikely protagonist.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
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