Payback (1999) Poster

(I) (1999)

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nasty. twisted. violent. Excellent.
Motoko7 May 1999
Warning: Spoilers
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.
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Cedric_Catsuits6 May 2006
Easily one of Gibson's best, and one of the best of it's kind you will ever see. Homage to film noir, combined with usual Gibson tongue-in-cheekness, and some fabulous supporting roles from the likes of Coburn, Kristofferson, Liu, and Devane. Henry does a stirling job here opposite Gibson. Liu is simply wonderful in a role that - worryingly perhaps - looks like it was made for her!

Porter's single-minded, no-nonsense determination to get what he sees as justice for himself strikes a chord, and has you rooting for him right to the end. This film rarely lets up on the intensity, and gets better as it goes along. It will make you laugh and cringe at the same time, but you won't want to take your eyes off the screen for a second. It looks good, feels good, and oozes class. Definitely a must-see.
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It's just plain mean!
Zephyr-97 February 1999
Payback, while admittedly one of the more violent movies out this year, was definitely an entertaining flick.

Like the promo catch phrase says, this time you'll root for the bad guy. If Gibson's character has any redeeming qualities, they are on a very short list. Porter (Gibson) is violent, at times even cruel and the other characters aren't much better; some are worse. Every character is from the wrong side of the tracks, even the cops are on the take and there are no punches pulled. The only character you can really feel is a "good guy" is Rose, the stereotypical Callgirl with a heart of gold (although it's maybe only 10 karat, not a real 24 karat heart).

Nevertheless, you will root for Porter. Frankly, I don't think anyone else could have pulled off this role and still kept the support of the audience like Gibson did, but then he generally always plays the good guy with a twist. This time, the twist is a little more savage than usual.

All in all, if you enjoy the occasional violent romp on the big screen and you're a fan of Mel Gibson; Payback is worth seeing.
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Point Blank Great!
jwpeel-17 June 2005
If you don't like violence, then don't watch this movie. If you are open to great storytelling and gritty dialogue, this is the movie for you. In some ways superior to the remake and just as gripping. Some have hated this film just because of what it was, and that's a shame for them that they can't enjoy a film that neither glorifies nor trashes the underside of life. In a weird way, the main character Porter (who was Walker in the Lee Marvin film, played this time by Mel Gibson who is almost as good as Lee Marvin. Nobody could be better than Marvin in this kind of role) has a kind of decency code of his own even though it is more than a bit twisted. After all, in a world inhabited by criminals, the rules change significantly and so once has to either adapt or find a way out. Porter does both in both versions.

No sense in rehashing the plot. Suffice it to say that it is about a crook who got burned and wants what is coming to him and gets even along the way. Besides, the plot has been recounted by so many better reviewers than myself. I can only say that in "Point Blank" the ending is a bit more ambiguous. A precursor to the films of the 1970s.

It's always hard for me to rate one film version over another. It is almost impossible to not want to (in my mind at least) mix and match actors in roles. James Coburn played the same part as did Carroll O'Connor in the original and they are both perfect while being so different. After all, they were both accomplished actors. And maybe I could have done without a lot of the S&M and B&D scenes in the newer version but I chalk that up to the changes in the world since the 1960s.

Long before there was a Quentin Tarrantino, there were great directors like Don Siegel, Sam Peckinpah and Sam Fuller who were as tough as nails and not just some fan who knew how to use the best of all of these guys brilliant touches, and add some sick jokes. But director/writer Brain Helgeland does spectacularly well with the material, while the new cast shines in their roles almost as though they weren't acting, but living the parts. And that goes right down to the underrated David Paymer as a pathetic hustler (who could easily have been played in earlier times by an Elisha Cook Jr. as he did with the Wilmer role from "The Maltese Falcon" yet Paymer does so with more humor.) It is hard to make one root for people so lacking in morals but director, writer and actors manage amazingly well.

Both "Payback" and "Point Blank" are instant classics that should be considered as such. And God bless the memories of Lee Marvin and John Vernon (both in the original "Point Blank" version.) Such fine thespians will be sorely missed. Fortunately, their memories are on celluloid and other mediums to be enjoyed by many more audiences.

You might have guessed I really love these two movies.
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Payback & Point Blank
smudged6816 September 2004
Yes - Payback & Point Blank (1967) are very similar. But there is a very good reason for that. Both films are based on the novel 'The Hunter' by Richard Stark, a pseudonym for Donald E Westlake.

The films share several character names such as Brewster, Carter, Stegman and Fairfax and similar plots. In both cases the anti-hero Porter (or Walker) is trying to recover a sum of money after being double-crossed.

Now, I am a huge fan of Point Blank. It takes a relatively simple plot and makes a bit of cinematic poetry out of it. And if I was forced to compare Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson's performances, then I'm sorry but Gibson would lose big time. However, Payback is a much better film than I thought it would be. There are sufficient differences to make the story interesting and though it is told in a much more straightforward and, dare I say, 'safe' way than Point Blank, it is a very well made film and tells a compelling story well. And it's nice to see Gibson return to a somewhat morally ambiguous character a la Mad Max.
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A very fun 100 minutes!
Boba_Fett113817 September 2004
"Payback" is one of those highly entertaining movies that make you forget your sorrows for a moment and entertains you right till the end. Difference with most other entertaining movies is that this movie also has a great story!

The movie is completely driven by the main character played by Mel Gibson. He plays a great and fun criminal who is an anti-hero and a total bad guy but still someone for who you can feel and cheer about. The movie also features lot's of other great actors including James Coburn in a very fun role, Kris Kristofferson, Lucy Liu, Bill Duke and David Paymer. The movie is filled with great and entertaining characters.

The story is just great and has quite some nice twists and moments. The movie is comedy like but it also has a wonderful film-noir feeling with a typical atmosphere. There are also some nice action sequences in which Mel Gibson's character might be featured a bit too much as an hero.

Nothing about this movie indicates that there were troubles on the set during filming with the director Brian Helgeland, on the contrary! Everything about the movie feels very fun like.

Solid entertainment!

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Payback - Great movie in the "film noir" genre
toan-518 June 2005
Payback directed by Brian Helgeland is a classic "film noir" following the tradition of urban "gangster movies" and Mel Gibson is giving an outstanding performance as Porter - the bad guy who is only slightly better than the rest of the gangsters, hoodlums, crooks and scoundrels to be met in the film.

"Payback" is a great movie in this genre. Donald E. Westlake, who has written the novel on which the film is based, has picked up the thread of Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett to create an authentic universe with "real" characters, and Brian Helgeland has succeeded to bring this universe to the screen.

Everything about this movie is great - the storyboard, the cast, the direction and the soundtrack. This film bears resemblance to Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly" and if you have seen "the Maltese Falcon" starring Bogart, you should definitely see "Payback".
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Wow, This Is A Rough, Tough Movie!
ccthemovieman-18 November 2006
A modern-day film noir, this is about as tough as it gets. Rough characters, rough violence and rough language all comprise this re-make of the 1967 film "Point Blank," which starred Lee Marvin.

Mel Gibson is the "good guy" here, taking Marvin's role, but I put that in quotes because he's not really "good," just a thief attempting to get his $70,000 back which was stolen from him by his partner and ex-wife in a former heist. He goes up the ladder, little guy to the top boss, to finally get his money.

Gibson gets beaten up several times and even gets tortured in one toes- crunching scene. The women are tough-looking, coarse and unappealing. I did like the metallic-blue hues in here, making this an interesting visual film. However, the city scenes are bleak, a la Batman.

Despite the above, I still found the movie good enough to watch several times. Most people like a simple, revenge story which this really is, and there is dark humor in here, too. The other characters are interesting, particularly the one played by William Devane. I also liked the narration by Gibson, done in 1940s film noir style. The worst person in here was the sadistic "Val Resnick" (Gregg Henry). He was so bad, he was cartoon-ish, someone so bad he belonged in one of those Batman or Hellboy or Spiderman flicks.
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I'm in town,stay out of my way
Bogmeister22 July 2005
Mel (as Parker aka Porter) is a bad guy who comes across as a good guy because everyone else in this flic is even more nasty than he is. It's a simple play on perspective not often utilized in the movies. Usually, the hero is A HERO, white hat and all, even with a few quirks or deficiencies to his character. Not so, here. And the key to the whole picture is buying into Mel as a bad man, all despite his many years in heroic roles beforehand. It works very well, especially in the beginning, where it really needed to. There's an early scene during the credits where Mel forces himself to smile in a mirror, as preparation for putting forth his 'best face' to a teller at a bank. One gets the impression this really is a man unaccustomed to smiling, a sour, angry man. The early scenes also recall the beginning of "Miami Blues," that being a criminal swooping into town and wasting no time in bringing a little terror & hardship on certain select bystanders. There's a danger, in a film sense, of satirizing such moments too much, to the point of slapstick comedy - rather than dark comedy, which it really is. But Mel doesn't mess around here: he means business, bashing scum left & right, and blowing 'em away as he moves up the ladder of an organized crime organization. The rest of the cast is top-notch, by the way. The casting directors must have had a field day on this one. Then Mel himself is beaten; the whole theme of the movie seems to be about pain: how much one can stand; how much one can dish out. It ends up being very cathartic. The cinematography also helps this picture: the photography is quite stark,ultra-crisp, adding to the 'punch' of the whole show. The lines on Mel's face are deeper than ever; he seems to carry years of pain there. And years of guilt, maybe.
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A Superb thriller.
CharltonBoy26 March 2000
I'ts not often a film comes along that has a great script , great acting and good soundtrack but Payback has all these.Mel Gibson plays a guy who has been ripped of by the tune of $70,000 and this is the violent story of how he get round to getting it back.The film takes you on a journey where you ride many twists and turns and you meet lots of great personalities on the way , most of which end up dead. Mel Gibson try's his best to be nasty but you cant help but like him. He could play Jack the ripper and you would still end up liking him! Anyway catch this movie asap. 9 out of 10
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A vicarious experience
lastliberal12 March 2007
What can I say. This movie is the one to watch when you are angry with someone. Through Mel Gibson, you can experience your anger and frustration and get that vicarious revenge.

Gibson's character just wanted what was due; nothing more or less. He methodically went up the line to get it. He was clever and ruthless. In the end...well, I won't tell you that. I have to say that I got the best of all those who wronged me through Porter.

With the possible exception of Braveheart, this is Gibson's best. He makes Richard Stark's book come to life on the big screen in a way that it is a pleasure to watch again and again. And, hey, it has Maria Bello, and that gives it an additional star.

Besides, it's cheap therapy.
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Payback by name, payback by narrative but brilliance by opinion.
johnnyboyz5 July 2008
The film begins with a series of gross close ups: some nasty looking surgical tools; a grubby glass having a drink being poured into it before being gulped down by a sleazy looking man, as a spread chart makes itself apparent on the wall behind him complete with pictures of a fetal nature complete with unborn babies – maybe a sign that this guy does cheap, back alley abortions as well. As it happens he's removing a bullet or two from our anti-hero of the hour, someone who lays everything out for us as he lies there on the slab, informing us of what was taken from him and what he's going to get back. The item in question is $70,000; a score he inherited from robbing the aforementioned Chinese gangsters with partner Val Resnick (Henry). The location is an unnamed city, a place we first see by way of an extreme long shot as the lead makes his way over a bridge - the city has that appearance of being cut off from the mainland, as if this scuzzy, hostile, crime infused dystopia is somehow disconnected from the normal world.

The stark differences between both Val and Porter is highlighted in this one scene they share, in which either hostilities are at a minimum or they aren't frantically moving around the screen for whatever reason. They stand, street side and watch the Chinese go about their routine. Val is frisky; nervous and energetic – his blonde hair and effeminate clothing is in stark contrast to Porter's jacket; darkly hued hair and gruff, unemotional tone is the polar opposite to that of Val's appearance. Whilst swiping the case, Val's sadism becomes first apparent in his beating of the Chinese driver. He utters a line along the lines of: "The trouble is with kickn' a Chow's ass, half an hour later, you want to do it again!", which foreshadows both a violent and sadistic driven relationship with Pearl (Lui), a Chinese mistress. This, as his foil Val sports a name ambiguous in terms of gender; already adding to his dress sense and hair style, somewhat out of sorts for a piece of this genre. Later on, ideas as to how Val strives to survive in this hostile world arise when certain parallels can be drawn between characters.

Payback is quintessential noir; a film that ought to be a vital part of any noir cannon, despite all the problems; disagreements and issues that threatened to run it aground prior to release. The film is a smart, highly intelligent and highly enjoyable romp through an unspecified, unhinged city in America in which thieves; back-stabbers; liars; traitors; crooks and criminals rule the majority of the roost. To see it is to experience one of the great films of recent times, and one of the more under appreciated films of our time. It is essentially a blending of generic codes and conventions of hard-boiled noir from Hollywood of the 1940s mixed in with more action orientated American crime pictures about men, their guns and masculinity from the 1970s – think a Dirty Harry sequel but ten times better.

The film's noir archetypes complete with voice-overs blend nicely with the lead's persistent flitting between lonely, down-trodden noir infused lead and gun's-blazing action hero, as he takes on a variety of shady and unlikeable villains out to do more harm than our lead is. The use of specific cars of 'an era' with the sparseness of cellular phones are all obvious ideas employed by the makers of the piece that have been brought to attention before in regards to the inconclusive year in which the film is set, although my favourite tactic applied to the piece which renders the setting ambiguous is the instance in which Porter, having stolen a guy's wallet, looks at the I.D. and reads his date of birth to have been the year 1940 – the fact the victim looks to be in his thirties suggests a 1970s setting.

There have been many writings on the character of the successful gangster being a living embodiment of the 'amoral' American dream; exemplified over the years in many films such as the original Scarface. The high-rise buildings the mafia of this film inhabit during working hours dominate the skyline of an equally shady and sinister city, with the high-rise offices coming to represent the very core of Capitalism iconography. Outside, the American flags are left to fly beside the entrance - they hang, loosely and limply, almost ashamed to fly high and proud because of what lies inside and how it is the inhabitants came to be as rich and successful as they have done: by way of the amoral American dream of a gangster lifestyle.

The film is full of people chasing a similarly ill-advised and immoral dream, that longing for money that they have not earned cleanly and honestly: a corrupt policeman wanting a boat without having to life a finger; a wormy cab dispenser willing to just waltz someone into The Mob for a large bounty; a two-timing thief willing to grass up an old friend. Lead Porter and his plight are consistently made to look a lot more favourable than they actually are. By the end of the film, our lead will have waged a war against police corruption and individuals whom engage in violence against women. The film is one of those minor-masterpieces that feels shunned on release, when in actuality, maintains a promise of delivering an experience of a genre which carries nessesary weight. The film is engageing and smart, while it does not contain thirty seconds that aren't uninteresting. Whilst the majority are incorrectly dismissive, Payback is a fascinating and gripping exercise in a blending of genres with film theory and character.
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Rlipt85 December 2018
The fight I refereed with Roy Jones Jr v Bryant Brannon for the IBF Supermiddleweight world title held in the Theater at Madison Square Garden in 1996 is shown briefly in a long shot where you see me as the referee. It is combined with a completely different studio shot of two actors portraying boxers. The same footage of me refereeing the same fight is shown more completely in "The Devil's Advocate," with Al Pacino Keanu Reeves.
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Point Blank Redux
mgtbltp1 November 2016
Payback is the third interpretation of Donald E. Westlake's novel The Hunter (1962), written under the pseudonym Richard Stark. A crime thriller novel, the first of the Parker novels. The other films are John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), starring Lee Marvin and Ringo Lam's Full Contact (1992), starring Chow Yun-fat.

Payback was directed by Brian Helgeland and written Brian Helgeland (screenplay) and Terry Hayes (screenplay), (theatrical cut). Cinematography was by Ericson Core, and music was by Chris Boardman.

The film stars Mel Gibson as Porter, Gregg Henry as Val Resnick, Maria Bello as Rosie, Lucy Liu as Pearl, Deborah Kara Unger as Lynn Porter, David Paymer as Arthur Stegman, Bill Duke as Detective Hicks, Jack Conley as Detective Leary, John Glover as Phil, William Devane as Carter, James Coburn as Fairfax, Kris Kristofferson as Bronson (Theatrical Cut), Sally Kellerman as Bronson (Director's Cut), Trevor St. John as Johnny Bronson (Theatrical Cut), Freddy Rodriguez as Valet, Manu Tupou as Pawnbroker.

There are two versions out there the theatrical release and the director's cut.

I've seen both versions. The best film version in my opinion would be roughly, the theatrical release with the narration and blue tint then go with the director's cut (but keeping the blue tint) to the ambiguous end. I'd keep the beating also.

The film looks great in a Noir-ish way. It homages beautifully classic noir with it voice over narration, the heavy use of stylistics and locations that evoke cinematic memory. Gregg Henry is impressive he evokes the spirit of Dan Duryea.Unfortunately the film goes somewhat slowly off the rails with various scenarios, i.e. Porter cutting a gas line under a an 80s Lincoln which would be physically impossible to do, you can't squeeze under that type of car, no way, and the unneeded extraneous additions of dominatrix Pearl (Liu ) and the Chinese Tong machine gun battle where it veers off into Action film and touches on Tarantino land, when it didn't have to, a shame. The majority of Films Noir were simple stories when you overload then with action sequences you tip the film past the noir tipping point it becomes more of the Action Genre, for me anyway.

Give it a fair shake your personal noir tuning fork may accept it more than mine does. Watch also the Film Soleil adaptation of the novel, Point Blank (1967), for a comparison, same story set in California. I haven't seen Chow Yun-fat's Full Contact (1992). Screencaps are from the Paramount DVD. 6.5-7/10
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A stylish and entertaining nod to film noir with a charismatic star turn from Gibson...
Isaac585520 July 2007
PAYBACK is wonderfully entertaining nod to the film noir drama that puts a great star smack dab in the middle of a great story and he totally runs with it. This dark and delicious film stars Mel Gibson as Porter, a former Mafioso who was left for dead by a former running partner and robbed of his half of a heist ($70,000.00)and Porter's single-minded quest to get his money back, not concerned with what he has to do or who has to kill to get it. The funny thing about the story is that all the people who stand in his way can't believe Porter is going to all this trouble for only $70,000.00...which is chump change where mob money is concerned, but this doesn't concern Porter, who just wants it back, no more, no less. Gibson appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself here, in one of his most off-beat and engaging characterizations. Effective support is provided by Maria Bello, James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Gregg Henry, David Paymer, William Devane, John Glover, and a brief but memorable turn from Lucy Lieu. The cinematography is dark and dreary(it almost looks like it's in B&W, but's it not)but it fits the style of the film perfectly. The story is simple and straightforward and will keep you engrossed until the final credits under-appreciated sleeper that got by a lot of people.
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A Good Watch
njyphilly29 December 2006
I got caught up in this movie one night just flipping channels and next thing I know, I've watched the whole movie. Mel Gibson plays a thug, Porter, who is out for some payback against a friend who screwed him over in a, lets just say, financial matter. While instant payback would have made for a very short movie, there are some nice twists and turns that make for an entertaining movie. Although a thug and most likely a menace to any society, you start to sympathize with Porter throughout the movie. As deadpan as Porter is, he becomes a somewhat likable thug. By the end of the movie, you're on his side and hoping he can get himself out of some tricky situations. Or could it just be the end of the line for him?
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character build
PIST-OFF24 September 2005
i like this movie mostly for one reason. that reason is because of the way it turns on it's head the normal way in which a character is made into a badass. generally speaking i've noticed in movies that a character can be built up as a badass in a number of ways. most of these include either not showing the character at all (The Usual Suspects, Boba Fett, Hannibal in Silence of The Lambs) or showing them in light that doesn't particularly lend itself to inspiring badass-ness (Clint eastwood in Unforgiven) or minimizing the character's screen bad ass time (Darth Vader, terminator 1,) meanwhile other characters in the periphery will expound on the alleged badness of the character... this is a great strategy for making a character quite memorable. anthony perkin's psycho is still considered a bad dude because so little is known about him until the end. and this technique of leaving it up to the viewer's imagination works well for other things too, such as implied violence, in reservoir dogs, and implied intelligence (any morgan freeman character)

but here in Payback mel Gibson just does exactly the opposite, the movie acts as a kind of two hour buildup of the his character's factor of badass-ness, with little plot, or development, or nuance along the way. meanwhile instead of verbally building himself up on screen ala Keyser Soze, the character instead undercuts his character's bad ass-ness by slyly poking fun at himself, and allowing a bit of abuse to come his way. By the end of the film the Mel Gibson has established a classic movie badass.

it works!

8 out of 10
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"I promise you won't have to find out what your left ball tastes like..." A personal favourite of mine.
poolandrews11 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Payback starts as hard as nails thief Porter (Mel Gibson) arrives back in town after 5 months recovering from being shot by his double crossing friend Val Resnick (Greg henry) & wife Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger) who stole his $70,000 cut from a robbery & left him for dead. Porter heads for his wife to find out where Val is, he quickly learns that Val is now working for the the 'Outfit' a criminal organisation which controls crime in the city & used his money to pay them. As Porter travels across town hurting people & leaving a trail of bodies he not only has Val to deal with but the might of the Outfit, crooked cops & Chinese triads who all either want money or him dead...

Payback is one of those films with a troubled production history, maybe we'll never know the full truth but it appears after negative initial test screenings original writer & director Brian Helgeland was fired (apparently just two days after he had won an Oscar for L.A. Confidential (1997)), some say by star Gibson, & replaced by production designer John Myhre who re-shot up to thirty per cent of the film including a drastically different ending which included Kris Kristofferson & the torture scenes none of which are present in the director's cut & as a result the film was delayed by over a year because as soon as the original production on Payback finished Gibson did Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) before doing the re-shoots for this, got that? Good. It's perhaps surprising then that Payback is such a good film, in fact I think it's a brilliant dark noir thriller that is a personal favourite of mine & has been ever since I originally saw it at the cinema all those years ago. The script by Helgeland & Terry Hayes (who is credited with the Theatrical Cut here on the IMDb) was based on the novel 'The Hunter' by Richard Stark & is a deliciously dark tale of revenge, it's told from the perspective of Porter who is a pretty nasty piece of work himself like during the opening sequence when he steals from a homeless beggar for instance which sets the character up perfectly & I just love the the fact that Gibson's character is a bad guy & you end up wanting him to win, it's something very different that I just think works brilliantly. The rest of the larger than life over the top character's are fantastic too, from the criminally underused dominatrix played by Lucy Liu to the funny Fairfax played by James Coburn to the menacing Bronson played by Kristofferson. It moves along at a nice pace, it has a pretty clever & absorbing plot with some cool twists & turns along with a great ending. I just think it's a brilliant film & it's as simple & straight forward as that.

This version of the film has a really muted colour scheme with a blue tint, in fact it's not far from being black and white. It's a colour scheme which suits it down to the ground though & is very stylish, the recent director's cut is not tinted in this way & the colour is more vibrant. The violence isn't that excessive but it is fairly brutal at times, Gibson putting a cushion over someones face & shooting them in the head at point bland range for instance & there's a scene where Gibson is tortured which has a bit with a hammer which will make the squeamish amongst you wince. I didn't like the fact that the dog survived being shot in this version though & more realistically it dies in the director's cut. There are some good action scenes & set-pieces as well including some cool sequences with Pearl the dominatrix.

With an estimated budget of about $50,000,000 this is very stylishly made, the production design is great & it's a cool film visually. The acting is great as well from a good cast, I've always liked Gibson who is apparently the richest actor in the world... maybe I don't like him so much now! Everyone else puts in really good performances too.

Payback is, in my opinion, a brilliant ultra dark thriller with a really cool edge to it. I loved it & thats all there is to it. Director Helgeland & original editor Kevin Stitt got the opportunity in 2005 to compile a 'director's cut' released straight-to-video/DVD in 2006 as Payback: Straight Up - The Director's Cut reinstating the original ending & a completely new musical score as well as removing the blue tint from the picture as well as other changes, this 'new' version actually runs 10 minutes shorter than the theatrical cut.
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Danimal-710 September 1999
Aristotle once that good theater evokes catharsis in its audience. Catharsis meant the creation of characters whose fear, torment or happiness the audience could identify with. I disliked PAYBACK because I couldn't identify with any of the characters, and the thing that really scares me is to see how many people did identify with the brutish, nasty little thief who stars in this movie.

Porter (Gibson) is a professional criminal who plans a brutal robbery, but finds himself cheated out of his own share of the loot. Now Porter will very unsubtly go about getting his share of the loot back. Not the whole haul, mind you, but only his own share, the share that he stole fair and square.

Don't you know somebody like Porter? Haven't you always wanted to do something like what Porter's doing? Aren't you itching to find out whether Porter outdoes all his fellow bad guys and gets away with his money? I don't know about you, but for me the answer is no to all three questions.

If Porter were at least intelligent about how he goes about his scheme, he might be worthwhile watching, but in fact his tactics are incredibly dumb and succeed only by fiat of screenwriter and director. For one example, Porter stupidly gives away his greatest advantage, the fact that his adversaries don't know he's alive. In another scene, Porter asks a Hulking Tough Dude to show him to his criminal boss. The Hulking Tough Dude refuses, so Porter rips the HTD's earring out. The HTD immediately whips out a gun and shoots Porter dead. No, wait, that's what would really happen. Because we are living in Hayes/Abascal/Helgeland Land, the HTD meekly leads Porter in to see the criminal boss.

I have difficulty believing that anything of Brian Helgeland, the screenwriter of the excellent L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, survives in this film, since he was sacked before it was done. It is much easier for me to blame Terry Hayes, co-writer and author of such stupidity as MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, and Paul Abascal who was final director. Whoever may be to blame obviously wanted to take his source material (a Donald Westlake story variously alleged to be either POINT BLANK or THE HUNTER) and turn it into just what we all needed, another take on PULP FICTION. He got all the bad parts of Tarantino's hit right: the mindless, senseless, bloody, and sadistic violence, the characters with no appeal or redeeming features whatsoever, and the darker-than-black humor that generally hurts too much to laugh at. However, while the dialogue in both films is mostly meaningless, Tarantino's had a spontaneous, natural sound to it; it may have been empty, but it was at least realistic. Here, the lines sound contrived as well as empty. Gibson's voice-over narration is omnipresent and irritating, especially when used to reveal points about his character that are already intensely obvious, since there is only one point to his character: that he is an unmitigated S.O.B.

It takes a lot to earn this disgusting film its one lonely star. The dark cinematography by Ericson Core conveys the amoral world of Porter convincingly. Gibson is always watchable, though it's sad to see him play such a one-note role. (There is a second note, Gibson's romance with Bello, but it's so tacked-on and reeking of cliche that it doesn't count). Gregg Henry's Val Resnick, the anti-antihero, is appropriately slimy. Kris Kristofferson plays a character named Bronson who, probably by design, resembles the Bronson we all know and who is vastly more sympathetic than Gibson. James Coburn reprises his dapper villain role from MAVERICK, which is always fun. But best of all is Lucy Alexis Liu as Pearl, the sadomasochist to whom all the violence is just a game.

These few bright spots failed to distract me from the underlying fact that PAYBACK is a lousy film with a lousy script and at times is damn near unbearable to watch. The one thing it taught me is a valuable but very disturbing lesson: the viewing public has enough sadists who think that screaming, bloody agony is laugh-out-loud hilarious to make dreck like PAYBACK commercially successful. It's scary.

Rating: * out of ****.
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Complete Rubbish
mrdeedsgoestotown8 January 2002
I avoid bad movies so was expecting at least an ok, entertaining couple of violent hours but this was almost unwatchable.I sat through it all just so i could comment on the whole film in case it got any better- it didn't.So this in summary is the worst big budget film of the nineties and maybe ever.
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Not A Good Movie
xpress30526 September 2005
This was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. What was the point to it all? It came across as being dramatic one moment and key-stone cop the next. Couldn't believe the insanity of the plot. I also felt the movie knocked people of color, but is this new? The premise was totally , preposterous. It would have been a good movie had it stuck with revenge the whole way through, but it kept detouring into stupidity. The bleached 'bluish' color was the only saving attribute to this horrible film. It gave it a great texture that you don't see in films these days. To spend even $4.75 to rent this is outrageous. They should have money-back guarantees on movies these days. Do not waste your time on this awful film.
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You Gotta Be Kidding Me!
dibabear213 July 2003
I gave this movie a 3 only because the acting was good considering the plot and script stink. Okay, Lucy Liu as S&M mistress was pretty much hubba, hubba. This story has got more holes in it that Lucy's fishnets. Sorry but other than a mindless 2 hour shoot 'em up, there's not much to the story.

By the way, wreaking that much havoc and mayhem and subjecting oneself to the "harm" that Mel took for $70,000 in this day and age just doesn't pass the 'suspend reality' test.
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Real 70s retro revenge film
Stoner-431 January 1999
I hadn't heard about this film, when I was suddenly offered the chance to see it, but boy was I surprised. It is a strange film with a script that could have been written in the 70s: look at the suits, cars and telephones. Mel Gibson is the only really famous actor, the rest are old stars or b-actors. There are really no "bystanders", very few people on the street, thereby placing great emphasis on Gibson and his opponents. Mel Gibson is playing the role of the anti-hero made famous by Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson. He is not the bad guy, since he kills bad guys, but he is not really the good guy either. He is a cold hearted robber with a mission: to get the money back his partner stole from him no matter what. He will not stop until that goal is accomplished. That is the plot-outline. It is a matter of principle and not the $70.000. I can only recommend the film especially if you like Mel Gibson, or the old Clint Eastwood movies.
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Insipid and dull.
Mzo-331 August 1999
It takes a special movie to get a comment out of me, and this definitely qualifies. I've only been tempted to leave a theater a few times in my life, and this was one of them. The story lags and drones along to Gibson's unusually bad character development, complete with weak one-liners and phlegm-filled voice. The odd bluish tint of the whole film also worked to annoy me. A total worthles waste of time.
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" When they kill you, you learn what your life is worth, mine was Seventy grand "
thinker169125 January 2009
In the annals of cinematic crime, it is rare a Hollywood movie is created which allows the criminal to be the hero. That is not the way in this fast and violent film called " Payback. " I believe the reason is, because like in the novel, almost everyone else, including the police Detectives are portrayed as criminals. The movie story is of a thief called Porter (Mel Gibson). He planned and participated in a street heist which netted his partners Rosie (Maria Bello) and Val Resnick (Gregg Henry) $130,000.00 which they were suppose to split with him. Instead they kept the entire amount, shot him in the back and left him for dead. Unfortunately for them, he survived and decides to have his revenge. The story follows him as he seeks his share of the heist which leads him to associates of Resnick like Arthur Stegman (David Paymer) who is a low level drug boss but has police protection. Det. Leary (Jack Conley) and Det. Hicks (Bill Duke). Other hurtles to his money include 'The Outfit' run by a man named Carter (William Devane) who despite his own hit men in turn answers to Justin Fairfax (James Colburn) and eventually Bronson (Kris Kristofferson) who tests Porter's resolve to disastrous ends for nearly everyone involve. Porter may be a criminal but with enough moxie to challenge even the Asian triad. This film has all the star power to make it exciting, dramatic and at times even comical. Yet the end result is nothing short of becoming a Classic. ****
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