payback.jpg (22751 bytes)
Mel Gibson as the devious "Porter" in Payback.

Payback (Rated R for very violent actions and a major amount of blood)



        I went to this movie and tried something new. I went with friends and honker and took a laptop to get an immediate reaction. Hope it makes this review better than previous ones. Here we go...

        "Not Many men know how much their lives are worth I do 70000. That's what they took from me and that's what I'm getting back." This quote might be a little paraphrased but it's pretty close. This is how Payback begins with a voice over of Mel Gibson. In the background, you hear groovy 60's cop movie music. Like that of Dragnet. This sets the mood for a really good movie.

        From the beginning you know this movie is different, it shows Mel Gibson as a criminal doing some really bad things. He steals a guy's wallet and goes out on a shopping spree. This is trying to set up the anti-hero feeling of the movie. The voiceovers in this movie are also reminiscent of and old spy movie. He speaks in a low tone like there is action at every corner, which in this movie there is.

        The first thing you see in the movie is Porter (Mel Gibson) on at table with two bullet wounds. The movie then goes to a flashback to show how Porter got shot. In this flashback, he and his friend Val (Gregg Henry) are staking out the Chinese Mafia. They want to steal a case full of money and decide to do it. It all works out and Porter’s wife picks them up. After this takes place, they go to a safehouse where they count up the money, it adds up to $130,000. Porter's wife stabs him in the back, well actually shoots him twice in the back.

        After this flashback, we are brought back to current times where all Porter wants is his share of the money, $70,000. He's been out of it for a while and everyone thinks he's dead. First he goes after Val, and tries to get the money. Val is now a member of "The Syndicate", a group of criminals who together run Chicago. He enrolls the help of Rosie, a prostitute who works for the Syndicate and who he use to be romantically involved, to assist him in finding Val. To get to Val, he has to go through Stegmon (David Paymer). Val is just a lieutenant in this. Porter just keeps going up the chain of command in this "Syndicate". People higher in this chain include William Devane, James Coburn, and then the big bad guy Kris Kristofferson. All three of these guys give good and funny performances.

        Now that Porter is after the syndicate, the syndicate wants to kill him. The Chinese mob is after him because he stole their money. Then there are these dirty cops who he meets when he confronts Stegmon, they want all the money for themselves. Everywhere he goes someone is chasing him and trying to kill him. Porter does all of this for $70,000.

        When I saw the preview for this movie, I was expecting a blow'em up movie starring Mel Gibson. What I got was a smart, suspenseful, perfectly timed movie. Payback was co-written and directed by Brian Hedgeland (LA Confidential and Conspiracy Theory). It had a film noirish feel to it with a sort of fuzzy film, looked kind of old, very similar to LA Confidential. This is very effective for the look of this movie. The movie is funny, smart, and has lots of good action. Payback lets Mel Gibson do what he does best, star in a smart action movie (like Ransom and Conspiracy Theory) and they're even better when they have a twist. Mel's best characters have an edge to them and Porter definitely has an edge to him, a really sharp and mean one.

        One criticism was that all the female parts were wasted parts and were pretty much unnecessary except for wasting Mel Gibson's time. The acting in this movie is good on all accounts, the direction is good, and the writing is good, three things that add up to a really good movie. A good action movie with very clever action sequences, no squawking like a chicken like in Lethal Weapon 4 here. Payback is the best movie of 1999so far. That means it's better than In Dreams, Varsity Blues, At First Sight and She's All That. Anyway I give it 3.5 out of 4 stars.

Running Time: 1:42


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