Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"This whole venture is silly-side-up."

Remember Martin Riggs from the Lethal Weapon movies? Forget him. Porter in Payback is ruthless, uncaring and as much fun as a fist in the face. Mel Gibson can't play Lee Marvin, who was Porter first time around in the seminal Sixties film noir, Point Blank, on which this film is loosely based. He can play Riggs. It's a charm thing.

The film has style. It must be the Fifties, because everyone's smoking, and yet nothing feels remotely real, except the violence, of course, which is fierce, ugly and as gratuitous as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A dog is blown away. Women are whacked about. Men's faces turn to mince. A S&M hooker is busy-busy. Toes are sledgehammered, one by one. Bodies burn. Lots of them.

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The story is pulp fiction (ie simple). Porter is double crossed after a heist and left for dead. He comes back, not to kill anyone, but to get paid. He's up against the Mob, which means no-can-do. Bent cops want a cut. His wife's a junkie, his girlfriend's a whore. Also, he's the smallest guy on the street and when slouching over to five hoods in a car, they are supposed to feel afraid. Believe it, this whole venture is silly-side-up. Someone must have thought that L.A. Confidential was the happening tough guy movie of the Nineties. Its scriptwriter, Brian Helgeland, was brought along to direct.

Result: arty lighting, neat wardrobe and a bloodbath. Gibson gives Porter a 40-a-day growl and speaks in soundbites. James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson appear as big cheese baddies. They walk about looking tall. The women wear tight clothes and the same hair. You can treat it as pastiche and enjoy the faded colours, if you like. Don't expect Point Blank, that's all. And tell Danny Glover to get back here quick.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Payback packshot
A man left for dead by his wife, plots his revenge.
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Director: Brian Helgeland

Writer: Donald E. Westlake, Brian Helgeland

Starring: Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, David Paymer, Bill Duke, Deborah Kara Unger, John Glover, William Devane, Lucy Liu, Jack Conley, Kris Kristofferson, James Coburn

Year: 1999

Runtime: 79 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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