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
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.