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Hard nosed Porter (Mel Gibson) has pulled off a heist with his best friend, fellow crook (Gregg Henry) and his drug addict wife (Deborah Kara Unger); but instead of splitting the cash, they shoot him, leaving him for dead. But Parker survives – and sets out to get his payback – in both cash and (un)kind. The journey becomes intensely tortuous because of the involvement of a nasty criminal organisation (The Organisation). To penetrate it, he seeks the help of Rosie (Maria Bello), the hooker for whom he was once a trusted driver and protector. Then it becomes a sudden death play off.

"The opening sequence is gripping, brilliant filmmaking that establishes the mood of the film and its central character even before the titles are finished. This is economical writing and directing at its nerve-tingling best. What follows is also nerve tingling and taut, with a superb cinematic marriage of script, production design, music, direction, and performances. In fact, if you take the film apart, there is hardly a weakness, aside form a couple of rather contrived plot points and less than credible scenarios here and there. From the start, Gibson’s Parker is a dark, nasty crim. So why are we on his side? 1 – It’s Mel Gibson. 2 – His wife has shot him. 3 – He is the best looking guy in the film. Then his character begins to wear thin when it becomes clear that his love interest (a hooker with a golden heart…groan!) is there simply as the softening tissue for Mel. This combines with his confused motivations: is it for the sake of his drug addicted wife, the money he stole, but no more than that, or something in his psyche? But none adds up. The promising movie becomes a revenge-fest, with our Mel getting so badly beaten up we are ready to kill any of his enemies in the nastiest possible way. That’s just too simplistic. So while the script is superb, clever and engaging much of the time, and the film delivers an enormous energy-quotient, it is – sad to say – an error of judgement by Mel Gibson to play this character. Many will forgive all the weaknesses for the thrills involved. Ultimately, though, it ends up a bit cold and nasty."
Andrew L. Urban

"Dark and dangerous, Payback is spiced with piquant allure. The rich, dark visuals of the production design are haunting, the wailing jazzy soundtrack echo and jolting images piercing; Payback is visually intriguing as we are sucked into a desolate world inhabited by crooked cops, sadistic women, drug lords and an anti-hero who is far from squeaky clean. This is a meaner, grittier, nastier Mel Gibson, than we have seen before. His slant on life is cynical, his point of view sardonic. His choice of women questionable. And Gibson is terrific. But, I agree with Andrew (above) about the overall acceptance of Gibson in this role. We like Gibson more than we perhaps should like his character, because he is – well, Mel Gibson. With its sharp, concise script peppered with dry humour and cinematic flair, it is easy to be engulfed in this shadowy, dark world. There's an extra treat in store in the casting of (uncredited) James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson in small, but pivotal roles. Worth seeing for the production design and mood alone, Payback is a dark horse that makes it to the finish, but is pipped at the post."
Louise Keller

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CAST: Mel Gibson, Maria Bello, Gregg Henry, William DeVane, Deborah Kara Unger, Lucy Alexis Liu, David Paymer, Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn (uncredited)

DIRECTOR: Brian Helgeland

PRODUCER: Bruce Davey

SCRIPT: Brian Helgeland, Terry Hayes (Based on the novel, The Hunter, by Richard Stark)


EDITOR: Kevin Stitt

MUSIC: Chris Boardman


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes



VIDEO RELEASE (Rental): September 7, 1999
(Sell-Thru) March, 2000


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