Critics Consensus

Sadistic violence and rote humor saddle a predictable action premise.



Reviews Counted: 74

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 98,920


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.2/5

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Movie Info

Porter (Mel Gibson) is pulled into a heist by his old friend, Val (Brian De Palma regular, Gregg Henry). As they're stealing $130,000 in laundered drug money from Chinese Triads, no one is going to call the police. Everything goes smoothly until Porter's wife, Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger), shoots Porter in the back. After Val had shown Lynn a photo of Porter in the arms of another girl (Maria Bello), the two planned the double-cross together to pay off Val's mob debts so he could return to "The Syndicate." They didn't plan well enough, though, because five months later Porter's back, a complete sociopath who wants his $70,000. Brian Helgeland, the screenwriter for L.A. Confidential and Conspiracy Theory, makes his directing debut with this adaptation of the novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake writing under the pseudonym, Richard Stark. The same novel served as the basis for John Boorman's Point Blank starring Lee Marvin.

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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 Bartender
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. 2
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 No. 1
Yasen Peyankov
as Panhandler
Ed Pfeifer
as Ed Johnson
Freddy Rodriguez
as Punk Messenger
Michael Skewes
as Fairfax Bodyguard No. 2
Alex Skuby
as Oakwood Arms Tough No. 2
Lee Stepp
as Bar Patron
Daniel Patrick Sullivan
as Razor Clean No. 2
Manu Tupo
as Pawnbroker
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Critic Reviews for Payback

All Critics (74) | Top Critics (22)

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.

Nov 6, 2002 | Full Review…

A higher class of thriller.

Jun 18, 2002 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

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.

Mar 22, 2002 | Rating: 2/4

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

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.

Feb 14, 2001 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Morally bankrupt, but it's rich entertainment!

Jan 1, 2000

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 Maximus
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
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer


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.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

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