Payback

A sadistic burlesque of bone-crunching vengeance, this pulpy crime picture is adapted from the same Donald Westlake novel that inspired the icy, alienated Point Blank. But no-one will ever confuse the two. A mean-spirited cartoon beneath a thin veneer of faux-grit, screenwriter Brian Helgeland's feature debut is aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator:...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A sadistic burlesque of bone-crunching vengeance, this pulpy crime picture is adapted from the same Donald Westlake novel that inspired the icy, alienated Point Blank. But no-one will ever confuse the two. A mean-spirited cartoon beneath a thin

veneer of faux-grit, screenwriter Brian Helgeland's feature debut is aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator: Fans of violent thrills who don't care about plot or character or plausibility or anything, really, except blood and bullets. Our anti-hero (heavy on the anti) is Porter

(Mel Gibson), a harshly professional thief who plots a heist with his wife Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger) and sometime associate Val Resnick (Gregg Henry). They rip off some gun-crazy Chinese gangsters and get away clean, but Lynn and Val betray Porter, pumping him full of bullets and leaving him for

dead. In the grand tradition of guys too mean to die, Porter survives and sets out to recover his half of the take. The movie's running joke is that no-one can believe Porter is doing all this for a measly $140,000, let alone half that amount, which is what Porter stubbornly considers his

just share. But to be honest, it's not much of a joke. It's possible that Westlake wrote the Porter novels pseudonymously because he didn't want to seem too profligately prolific; it's also possible that he recognized the pornographic nature of these breathtakingly violent fantasies of existential

revenge and brutalized flesh, and didn't want his name too close to them. Gibson isn't an especially credible Porter -- his redemptive affection for decent hooker Rosie (Maria Bello) just smacks of an attempt to make him likable -- but what's really wrong with this picture is that it has no idea

what it is. It careens from coarse comedy to smart-ass stylization to vicious violence without ever becoming convincing on any level.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A sadistic burlesque of bone-crunching vengeance, this pulpy crime picture is adapted from the same Donald Westlake novel that inspired the icy, alienated Point Blank. But no-one will ever confuse the two. A mean-spirited cartoon beneath a thin veneer of… (more)

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