Mr. Payback

  • 1995
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Action, Comedy

Advertised as the future of movies, MR. PAYBACK's crudely interactive narrative can be manipulated at various predetermined points by viewers armed with a primitive pistol-grip joystick with three buttons, one for each story option (virtual ballot-box loading is an easy option via multiple clicking). The process poses no threat to the traditional moviegoing...read more

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Advertised as the future of movies, MR. PAYBACK's crudely interactive narrative can be manipulated at various predetermined points by viewers armed with a primitive pistol-grip joystick with three buttons, one for each story option (virtual ballot-box loading is an easy option via multiple

clicking). The process poses no threat to the traditional moviegoing experience.

Mr. Payback (Billy Warlock), a low-rent cyborg, runs a detective agency quartered in a huge, cool loft and dedicates himself to righting wrongs that range from the trivial to the heinous. He's assisted by spunky Gwen (Holly Fields), a computer whiz with a not-so-secret crush on her boss. At the

beginning of each segment, they watch videotaped messages from potential clients, and viewers select the one they want Mr. Payback to call back: Raoul Alwarez (David Correia), who has a racist boss (Christopher Lloyd), Lloyd Brazton (Victor Love), the victim of a crooked politician (Bruce McGill),

or pretty Cara Cook (Carol-Ann Plante), who's being sexually harassed by the starchy principal (Leslie Easterbrook) of her exclusive school. Should the viewer choose Cara Cook, the story proceeds as follows:

On his way to meet Cara in a cafe, Mr. Payback spies a petty crime. Should the criminal in question be a creep spraying graffiti in a playground, a bicycle thief, or a jerk parking in a handicapped space? You decide. What should he do about it? You decide that, too. Although technically the

transition from story thread to story thread is smooth (no mean feat, given the logistics of manipulating the ever-multiplying story permutations), the story proceeds in fits and starts, punctuated by frantic joystick manipulation. The general outline is always the same: Mr. Payback investigates,

uncovers something, gets into a few scrapes and emerges triumphant on his client's behalf. It all leads up to a garish, game show-like ending in which the audience gets to choose the way in which the malefactor is to be punished. One option always involves childish humiliation: The harassing

principal, for example, might find herself dressed up in bondage gear and walked around campus on a leash.

And then it's back to the loft and on to a new installment. Though each mini-adventure only lasts about 20 minutes, viewers are expected to stay for several story cycles, adding up to a moviegoing experience of roughly feature-length duration.

Writer/director Bob Gale, the co-scripter-producer of BACK TO THE FUTURE, claimed in interviews to have been inspired by the experience of viewing old horror movies with audiences who, at crucial story junctures, screamed out their preferences at the screen. The flaw in this thinking is that

audiences are always hooting, "Oh, honey, don't go down those stairs..." when they don't really mean it at all: If no-one ever went down the stairs and got sliced up by the maniac, viewers would find themselves quickly bored.

In any event, watching MR. PAYBACK is more like playing an interactive CD-ROM game with a roomful of adolescent adrenaline junkies than viewing a movie. The writing is crude and geared to a gross teen sensibility--entirely in line with much mainstream American filmmaking--but the interactivity is

actually less elaborate and sophisticated than that of high-end CD-ROM games which do so well with that segment of the movie-going audience.

The cast, though hardly star-studded, includes such recognizable faces as Cheech Marin, Robert Englund, Ice-T, and Frank Gorshin, depending on the story threads selected. MR. PAYBACK was released in select, specially-equipped theaters, and was followed shortly after by RIDE FOR YOUR LIFE, an

adventure involving bike messengers starring Matthew Lillard and Adam West.(Adult situations, sexual situations, profanity.)

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  • Released: 1995
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Advertised as the future of movies, MR. PAYBACK's crudely interactive narrative can be manipulated at various predetermined points by viewers armed with a primitive pistol-grip joystick with three buttons, one for each story option (virtual ballot-box load… (more)

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