Payback (1999) - Rotten Tomatoes

Payback (1999)



Critic Consensus: Sadistic violence and rote humor saddle a predictable action premise.

Movie Info

In this film, Porter is pulled into a heist by his old friend, Val. Everything goes smoothly until Porter's wife, Lynn, shoots Porter in the back. Val and Lynn planned the double-cross to pay off Val's mob debts. They didn't plan well enough, though, because five months later Porter's back.more
Rating: R (for strong violence, language, and drug and sexual content)
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: Brian Helgeland, Terry Hayes
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jul 27, 1999
Paramount Pictures - Official Site


Mel Gibson
as Porter
David Paymer
as Stegman
Bill Duke
as Det. Hicks
Jack Conley
as Det. Leary
James Coburn
as Fairfax
Lucy Liu
as Pearl
Mark Alfa
as Johnny's Friend
Kwame Amoaku
as Radioman
Justin Ashforth
as Michael the Bartende...
Len Bajenski
as Fairfax Bodyguard
Kate Buddeke
as Counter Girl
Price Carson
as Bronson Heavy No. 1
Roddy Chiong
as Chow Thug No. 2
Art Cohan
as Bronson's Heavy No. ...
Doc Duhame
as Fatboy
Nathan Effron
as Johnny's Friend
Tom Equin
as Razor Clean No. 1
Brian Heinberg
as Bartender No. 2
Alex Hentelhoff
as Varrick's Manager
Jeff Imada
as Chow's Bodyguard
Michael Ingram
as Chow's Thug No. 1
Robert Kim
as Chow's Courier
Robert Kurcz
as Oakwood Arms Manager
Turk Muller
as Black Suit
Chet Nichols
as Oakwood Arms Tough N...
Yasen Peyankov
as Panhandler
Ed Pfeifer
as Ed Johnson
Freddy Rodriguez
as Punk Messenger
Michael Skewes
as Fairfax Bodyguard No...
Alex Skuby
as Oakwood Arms Tough N...
Lee Stepp
as Bar Patron
Daniel Patrick Sulli...
as Razor Clean No. 2
Manu Tupo
as Pawnbroker
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Payback

Critic Reviews for Payback

All Critics (97) | Top Critics (29)

Demonstrates why Mel Gibson is a movie star: He can take mediocre material and through sheer willpower -- not to mention oodles of charm -- make it work.

Full Review… | November 6, 2002
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

A higher class of thriller.

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

It quickly slides into a Lethal Weapon without Danny Glover, complete with blowups and wisecracks, gratuitous torture scenes and Gibson in familiar form as the twinkling rascal who makes a virtue out of viciousness.

Full Review… | March 22, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

In the popcorn sense, it certainly delivers on mindless escapism. In the artistic sense, let's just say that Payback is a long way from Point Blank.

May 11, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

It's undone not so much by the shadow of Lee Marvin falling heavily on it (which it does) as by the twin obstacles of big star image and, more to the point, excessive violence.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

A mind-mangling disappointment, with a dopey sell-out ending.

January 1, 2000
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Payback


Starring a pre-shunned Mel Gibson, Payback is an exciting neo-noir crime thriller brimming with black humor. Mel Gibson's character, Parker is a criminal with an interesting moral code of his own set against the ?syndicate? in a film in which everyone is some degree of sleazy. Also excellently cast is Gregg Henry, who must have been born to play a sleazeball because he does it so well. Maria Bello is great as tough yet sexy as is Lucy Liu. She plays a hilarious dominatrix who can beat me up anyday. William Devane and James Coburn also shine in smaller roles.

The film has a relentless quality, and an outstanding morbid, grimy vibe. I give great kudos to first-time director Brian Helgeland, who wrote several classics such as LA Confidential, Conspiracy Theory, and Mystic River. Gibson carries the film, but Helgeland's direction and the cinematography combine to make this a memorable comic sleazefest

Clintus M.
Clintus Maximus

Super Reviewer


"Not the best thriller I have seen Mel in. But he always does a great job in any role he plays. Revenge flicks are a bit of a favorite of mine. But this one lacked a lot in being interesting. I thought the story was just OK. It wasn't exciting enough. No thrills here. Just a mediocre revenge flick that could have been better with a more developed story line."


Super Reviewer

OK can I just say firstly...Lucy Liu and her character, LOVE it! :D absolutely my kinda woman in every sense hehe Liu is soooo damn gorgeous. Right that's my little perversion out in the open and out of the way, yep I'm a fetish with it.

So apart from the delicious scenes with Liu what about the rest of the film? well its basically pretty darn good folks. In my view this is Gibson's last good film in an acting role, I also think its one of his best action thrillers too riding high alongside 'Lethal Weapon 1+2'.

There is a quite different directors cut of this film which is suppose to be more straight forward, I cannot comment on that as yet but personally I have always liked this film and see nothing wrong with it really. Sure its a little cliched and you always know Gibson will win in the end but he does get knocked around allot which is reasonably surprising for the good looking 'hero'.
Casting is great for all the characters here with a great slimy weaselly performance from Henry as 'Resnick', Paymer as the even more weaselly wet 'Stegman', Kristofferson is...well kinda as he always is and add some good backing in small roles from Bill Duke, John Glover and James Coburn, solid reliable casting there.

Violence is hard fast and totally enjoyable without there being that much blood, but you know what's happening, its adult only and it rocks. Thing is its all quite believeable too, its not just ridiculous over the top violence with no sense of realism, it all works well along with Gibson's little traps and setups.
I like the look of the film also, its almost in black and white, the picture is very bleak or washed out, kinda faded looking, shades of greys, blues, blacks and silver with not much else. Sounds odd but it sets the tone for the film whilst giving it some added class or distinction.

You can't go wrong here really, think 'Riggs' outta 'Lethal Weapon' only he's more badass and the series of events he's involved in are more sensible and darker.

Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

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