Based on the Richard Start novel "The Hunter," which was earlier filmed by John Boorman in the classic Lee Marvin picture "Point Blank," brings the story into the modern era with Mel Gibson in the lead. Gibson plays a crook who's double crossed by his partner and wife, and left for dead. However, Gibson is not dead and works his way up the "Syndicate" ladder to get back his money, as well as revenge upon those who crossed him. Although the story takes place in a contemporary setting, the film is wonderfully retro, featuring timeless business suits, old 70s looking cars, and more anachronistic rotary phones than you can shake a stick at. The story is a pretty straightforward revenge tale, but it's filled with so many colorful moments that it's pieces add up to a greater whole. One of my favorite moments is (SPOILER ALERT!) Gibson finding his ex-wife dead in bed and lying down next to her to recall the events leading up to his double-cross in a dreamlike flashback sequence, which manages to be both surreal and melancholy. The film is also filled with clever bits of action, such as when Gibson purposefully crashes a car head on during a heist, including a nice touch of close-up of a mouthguard hitting the ground as he get's out of the car to denote Gibson's premeditation of the crash. There's also a memorable toe smashing torture sequence that's not all that graphic, but effectively unsettling. "Payback" also has some great supporting performances by Maria Bello, David Paymer, Bill Duke, Deborah Kara Unger, John Glover, William Devane, Kris Kristofferson, and James Coburn. I was particularly taken with the underused Gregg Henry as Gibson's friend who double crosses him on a caper and steals his wife, setting off the events of the film. Lucy Liu (billed at Lucy Alexis Liu) is also quite memorable as a dominatrix/torturer friend/mistress of Henry's."Payback" came out at the peak of 1990s Quentin Tarantino ripoffs, but to lump this film in with that batch of imitators does not do it justice. "Payback" is a closer cousin to Don Siegel style of crime films (i.e. "The Killers" or "Charley Varrick") than to Tarantino. It's minus the pop culture references and has it's own unique dark sense of humor. The film is shot with a color palette of black and blues that make it nicely reminiscent of the black and white film noirs that it's referencing. And to be clear, this is the original theatrical version of the film I watched, which is supposed to be vastly different than the director's cut. Thirty percent of the film was re-shot when Brian Helgeland was replaced as director. The theatrical version is said to have had more humor and a generally more breezy tone. At the time this film was released, I was dubious of Gibson's tinkering, but since then Gibson has proven himself as a brilliant filmmaker, so I was less dubious this time around. Gibson years later co-write and produced a spiritual sequel to "Payback" with "Get the Gringo," in which Gibson plays another thief with a single name, which Gibson also narrates, and where his character at one point even says how he was once married, but his wife ran off with a former business associate. Overall, "Payback" is not in the same league as "Point Blank," but it does stand on it's own as a wonderfully retro crime film with an amazingly strong cast.