Payback - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Payback Reviews

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Clintus M.
Super Reviewer
½ May 30, 2014
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
Super Reviewer
½ April 27, 2009
"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
April 7, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
½ March 29, 2012
I've first seen Payback way back when kit was first released, and I thought it was a pretty decent film. Looking back at it over ten years on, I still feel the same way. This is still an entertaining film and despite it not being perfect, it still a mindless revenge romp that delivers thrills. Mel Gibson is good here, but compared to his other roles, this one lack a bit. Still for the most part, Payback manages to be thrilling despite its imperfections. For me this was a decent film, and it good elements to make it watchable. Payback is good to watch if you have nothing else better to watch. The film has good action, a pretty good plot, but I felt it lacked something to really make it a memorable film that would stand out. Mel Gibson here, and though he's far from the Mad Max films and Braveheart; he still manages to make this film work well enough for it to be watchable. If you love revenge flicks, then this is your film, although not great, it's still worth watching. I view this film like a popcorn action flick that is simply mindless that doesn't make you think too much. The film is a decent enough viewing experience, but you can tell that it could have been so much better too. Mel Gibson is good here, and this is actually one of better films of the 90's, aside from Braveheart. Go in with an open mind like I did, and you may not be disappointed. Payback has its flaws, but is pretty thrilling a good enough film to watch on a Friday night.
Super Reviewer
November 18, 2009
This is in my opinion the only way to experience Payback. While there is a director's cut and it isn't all that bad, this is just a way better movie. Mel Gibson did something that few producers have been able to do; outclass the director and make a better movie as a result. The changes he made were the right thing to do. This cut is so much more developed, original and just flat out cool in this edition. I think this is actually one of my favorite Mel Gibson performances because it's so reserved, yet he still manages to have the edge that is his trademark. I think one of my favorite additions here is Kris Kristofferson; this movie needed a good villain and he plays one extremely well. The rest of the cast is great here too; William Devane and James Coburn have some amazing cameos. I also like that this movie plays around with the film noir genre instead of trying to make a carbon copy of one. It has stereotypes in there, but changes them around and pokes fun at some of the cliches. This movie is incredibly easy to enjoy and in my opinion is pretty air tight. I love the way they balance the extreme violence and uncompromising nature of Mel Gibson as Porter and somehow make him a likable character. I think part of it is due to the fact that he's just an honest guy trying to get back his 70,000 dollars back. I think anyone just looking for a straight-forward, flawless action movie couldn't find much better than Payback.
Super Reviewer
June 23, 2011
Loved this film! Scary yet at times quite funny. A must see!
Super Reviewer
½ October 22, 2008
How much is $70,000 worth to you? I'm sure that right now 70 grand would come in real handy. But is it worth numerous beatings, getting shot, being run over and having your toes mashed by a hammer? It is to Porter.

I'm sure you're aware of the plot to this film (vengence, old flames and mucho violence) but that barely scratches the surface of this brilliant little noir. Whilst the story is basic the nuts and bolts used to make it are complex, twisting and not quite what you expect. For a start there are the characters. No good guys. Not one. Porter is a criminal. He's not even a particularly nice one. He's a killer, a thief, a thug, a gambler, a cheater, a liar and I bet he doesn't even pay his taxes. Likewise everybody else. Sadists, murderers, corrupt cops, drug dealers, gang members, mobsters, hookers. They're all here in their various shades of bad.

The success of this film relies on two people: Gibson and screenwriter/director Brian Helgeland. With the lead gleefully playing against his nice guy image Porter is as nasty as they come but still retains such charm and Gibsons trademark grin that not for one moment do you dislike him. He's cool in a way that Bruce Willis' Jackal never was. He quietly slipped across continents with hi-tech equipment in various guises waiting for his moment. Porter just walks into the hoods house with nothing but a revolver and asks for his money back. A lot of the comments I've read say that Porter is mean. He isn't. He'll just do what it takes to get his money back. He has nothing to loose so why not do it anyway. Porter is who Riggs would be if he'd never met Murtaugh. Out of control, against massive odds but just crazy enough not to give a damn.

Helgeland shows real talent as a director in his first time outing. As a scriptwriter he's always been in the upper classes with a talent for mixing unrepentant violence with uneasy humour. Here he shows he can tell a damn good story along with writing it. Nothing happens the way it's supposed to. We're used to good guys threatening to kill but always really bluffing. Porter isn't. He'll ask for what he wants, he doesn't get it, BANG, you're dead. People die at the wrong time too. Characters that are supposed to last until the end die in the middle while minors that only just arrive survive only to get whacked by the finish anyway. The motivation is all wrong as well. 70,000 is chump change to these people. The mobsters are wearing suits worth more than that. But Porter wants that and nothing more. He spends most of the film correcting people who think he's after more.

While based on the same source material as Point Blank, Payback is nothing like it stylistically. The first used understated violence. Payback goes for the jugular and rips it out with copious amounts of rheseus negative. It's hard to see this film working without this combo of star and director. If you had, say Sylvester Stallone or Nicolas Cage and Richard Donner or Joel Schumacher in charge you'd just have a bunch of nasty people doing nasty things with none of the ghoulishly comic touches that make Porter cool. Be thankful it's the combination it is and then go and see it. If you like thrillers you'll love this.
Super Reviewer
September 25, 2010
I have always been a fan of Mel Gibson, but watching this film was like the timespan of brushing your teeth. This film is always interesting, but it begins very slow, progresses very slow, and the pace never get's faster. By the end of the film, you role the toothpaste as hard as your possibly can to get the rest of it, and the story unfolds. So for the 100 minute film that it is, 90 minutes is curiousness of what the outcome is going to be, which I did not mind, but it was far to boring at points and needed to get moving. Which is exactly what I saw in the directors eyes, because when the film can't seem to go any further, random actions occur, and within 5 minutes about 5-10 people die and the conclusion of the film is here. I am not say it is a waste of time, but it is definitely something I have seen many times in the past, and many times to come. Payback is a really average revenge story that was pretty boring, but still interesting. Unless your a die hard Mel Gibson fan, I say steer clear from this for a while, even though it is mildly enjoyable!
Super Reviewer
February 13, 2007
One of my old favourites, which is unfortunately dating. Took a little while to warm up, but the sneaky tactics of the man who has nothing to lose, makes for an intersesting revenge plot, certainly one of Gibson's better films.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2011
"L.A. Confidential" screenwriter Brian Helgeland makes his directorial debut with this remake of John Boorman's "Point Blank". The commanding presence of Lee Marvin may be gone but this time we get an uncompromising, bad-ass Mel Gibson taking centre stage.
Armed robber Porter (Gibson), is double-crossed, shot in the back and left for dead by his ambitious partner Resnick (Gregg Henry) and junkie wife (Deborah Kara Unger), who also take $70,000 from him. Once, the bullets are removed and he's fighting fit again, he chases down a parade of low lives in a violent bid to get even and grab his share of the loot.
We are introduced to Porter during the opening credits as he steals from a homeless man, doesn't tip his waitress, and basically just shows a mean-spirited disregard for everyone around him. He's a deliciously nasty character and probably Gibson's finest role to date. This is a gritty modern noir with everything you could possibly want. It has the voice-over, an anti-hero, arch enemies, femme fatales and also a sense of humour. Not to mention having a great seventies feel to it, and boasting three prominent seventies actors in William Devane, Kris Kristofferson & James Coburn as the crime lord's Porter is out to get. Despite all this though, it seems everything I liked about this film was - surprisingly - the studio's doing. Helgeland was sacked during the making of the film and as a result, he released his director's cut at a later date. One of these studio additions is a wonderful monochromatic look with the colour desaturated, adding further weight to a Film-Noir. I haven't seen Helgeland's cut yet but I doubt it'll change my opinion of this version and I never thought I'd find myself saying I like what a studio has done to a film.
All the performances are delightfully sleazy or menacing with the highlights being Gregg Henry who lends some excellent support as Porter's sleazy double-crossing partner and Gibson has never been better. Like a cross between the ruthlessness of his "Mad Max" and craziness of his "Lethal Weapon" characters.
It may leave a bad taste for some but I found this to be an uncompromising and highly enjoyable guilty pleasure.
Super Reviewer
December 8, 2009
One of the greatest Movie with Mel Gibson.
Super Reviewer
September 10, 2009
In "Payback," Mel Gibson stars as a bad guy instead of the usual good guy. The people he's up against are also bad guys though, there's not any good guys in this movie. A bad guy named Val (Gregg Henry) takes all of Porter's (Mel Gibson) money when he was only supposed to get half of it. Val not only takes all of Porter's money, but also nearly kills him and leaves him to die on the ground, and takes Porter's girlfriend, Rosie (Maria Bello) with him. Once Porter gets up, he sets out to find Rosie, and then to ultimately find Val and get his money back.
"Payback" isn't one of the best Mel Gibson movies, but it is a good one. Like always, Mel Gibson does a great job of acting, in this case, acting as the stubborn thief who just won't give up at any cost of getting his money back. The movie is entertaining while you wonder how Porter is ever going to get his money back and get past all the people who are on Val's side, to even find Val. "Payback" is a good and entertaining movie and I recommend anybody who likes movies about crime or crime stalkers to get it. NOTE: That was my Amazon review from the year 2001.
Super Reviewer
½ March 29, 2009
Having heard that the theatrical and director's cut's of these movies are almost completely different films, I've decided to review them separately.

Theatrical Version:
Payback is a hard man mobster flick. It seems to be one of the many Ritchie/Tarantino wannabe's of the time. There's a very dark and nasty edge to it. The tag line was "Get ready to root for the bad guy" and they aren't wrong. We are left cheering on a man on a brutal killing spree, trying to get back money he stole in the first place. The film takes on a rather fresh narrative as it isn't a simple revenge film, Porter just wants what's his. This means we have no real antagonist, after all everybody's a bit of a bastard. Porter just climbs the ladder wanting his $70,000. The violence is sudden and nasty, but the film fails to play up the comedic touches hinted at in the trailer. I may only be saying this with the knowledge of a director's cut existing. But this really does feel like a film that has faced a heavy cut, and still drags in places. Fun, violent but leaves you wanting more.

Director's Cut:
Helgeland was fired before finishing the movie. Now he returns, but unfortunately, a lot of his original stuff no longer exists. So he has had to settle with editing his vision together from the existing film. For the most part the films are very similar. Almost identical. Until the final third. Gone is the overtly complex kidnapping plot and we are treated to a much more realistic confrontation that suits Gibson's character better. The film also looks completely different. Gone is the desaturated blue tint. It's for the better, the film is gritty but nicer to look at, everything is clearer and more vibrant. This is coming from a guy who loves his desaturated films. The music is also different, though neither versions stood out for me.

In Conclusion:
Both are very good films and offer different surprises in the last third. For me the simplicity of the Director's Cut just puts it above the theatrical version. It's also leaner, being 10 minutes shorter, and this helps with the pacing. Try and watch both.
Super Reviewer
½ February 11, 2007
Mel Gibson makes an unstoppable force in this nasty tale of a burglar whose chutzpah is larger than his common sense, and who stubbornly takes on the entire big-city criminal empire in order to retrieve what he perceives is his share of a recent heist. The story is wholly improbable and violent as hell, but Gibson's irresistible... even as a bad guy.
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2007
Val Resnick: Beauty of the Chows is that they won't go to the cops. They keep everything in house... and, they don't feel pain the way we do.
Porter: You notice anything about those guys, Val?
Val Resnick: They look nasty... probably all Kung Fu-motherfuckers. Why, did I miss something?
Porter: They weren't wearing their seat belts.

A fun, dark revenge story, with Gibson in one of his last good roles before the craziness stepped in.

This movie is very dark and gritty, yet filled with a great morbid sense of humor. Everyone in this movie is in asshole mode, and it only makes it more fun.

Good 70s soundtrack as well, in fact the whole movie plays like an homage to a 70s revenge story, which is pretty cool.

Porter: [voiceover] You'd think after five months of lying on my back, I would have given up any idea of getting even, just be a nice guy and call it a day. Nice guys are fine: you have to have somebody to take advantage of... but they always finish last.

Gibson has a lot of fun as Porter, an asshole/professional criminal who is seeking revenge based around principle, which is evident from the fact that he only wants a certain amount of money, and rejects offers of more. As he appears back from the dead after being shot, he tries to get his point across and get his revenge, but keeps getting interfered with by higher up criminals and crooked cops.

Stegman: You know what, Val, this one's on me. OK?
Val Resnick: Do you see me reaching for my fucking wallet!?

The film also stars a hilarious Greg Henry as the man who double crossed Porter with Porter's own wife, played by Deborah Kara Unger. You also have Maria Bello, David Paymer, Lucy Lui, Kris Kristofferson, and James Coburn as various figures all in Porter's way.

Pearl: [seductively] I've got a few minutes.
Porter: So go boil an egg.

The film was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, screenwriter of such films as LA Confidential, who has based the movie of a novel titled The Hunter, which has itself been previously adapted as the Lee Marvin film Point Blank.

Now, there are two versions of this film. The original theatrical version, which replaced Helgeland and the third act of the film, and there is a more recently released director's cut. Both versions would get the same rating despite their differences.

The original has a steely blue look to it and fits into a zone where Gibson is a bad guy, but the best bad among all the others. The director's cut removes the blue look for a grittier look, removes the voiceover, replaces the soundtrack, and has a darker and completely different ending.

A dark and fun R rated revenge story, filled with violence and Gibson when he wasn't crazy Mel.

[Porter has just threatened to kill Carter while talking to Bronson on the phone]
Bronson: Are you threatening me?
Porter: I'm not threatening you, I'm threatening Carter.
Super Reviewer
May 24, 2008
I loved the leaden, slightly blueish tinted hue of this film; it was simply gorgeous. (As was Lucy Liu.)
Super Reviewer
August 31, 2006
A tough, lean, mean, stylish and explosive crime thriller. It's gritty, wickedky funny and packed with hard-edged action. Mel Gibson gives one of his best performances. He has the the flair, grit and wit that makes this character work. Plenty of guilty pleasure fun.
Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2006
This semi-remake of Point Blank sees Mel Gibson robbed and left for dead by his wife and erstwhile partner and he promptly sets out for revenge. Once again Hollywood attempts to revisit film noir without understanding how it worked; noir was all about hardboiled dialogue and attitude, not macho posturing and ugly violence. It starts off well but soon descends into a collection of racial stereotypes, comedy S&M hookers and Laurel & Hardy-esque corrupt cops spouting cliches. Everything about this film feels second rate, from the drab photography to the B-grade supporting cast, from which only veteran tough guy James Coburn rises above the mundane. It has some decent moments, but give me Lee Marvin any time.
Super Reviewer
September 3, 2007
"Get ready to root for the bad guy." That is one of the tag lines of this film and it explains exactly what you are doing while watching this.The story is great and well told. It is told, partially, in the style of a film noir/self-narration and you would think that would turn this into a bore fest, but this movie has such an entertaining story along with interesting characters that you won't become bored at all. Besides, it isn't a full on film noir. The movie moves at a nice pace as well. There are very few parts, if any, where the film seemed it was dragging.The acting is pretty superb. Mel Gibson plays the part of the merciless robber nicely and all the supporting characters are also played well. I only wished that Lucy Liu and Bill Duke would have had more airtime. Even with the minimal airtime, this is one of my favorite and memorable characters from Lucy Liu.There is a moderate amount of action in here, but there are killings across the board. So, if you consider that action then there is a lot of it. There is nothing really fancy about the gun-play either. Just good old fashion quick shootings that fit nicely into this film. Yet, with all the killings going around, this film isn't all that gory, so if you're afraid of gore then don't be afraid of watching this.If you are in the mood for a good crime drama, give this a movie a chance.
Super Reviewer
May 16, 2007
An often overlooked film with an all star cast about a tale of revenge. Mel has to deal with con artists, bent cops, organised crime bosses and Lucy Liu as a domanatrix to get revenge on those who double crossed him. Quite violent at times but a cracking film. You'll like it if you enjoyed A history of violence or Running scared.
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