Mel Gibson seems to enjoy playing the role of complete lunatic. The movie Payback is no different, as Mel's character Porter is fucking nuts.

Porter is a big-city crook who steals $140 thousand from yet more crooks with one of his friends and his wife. Unfortunately, they shoot him in the back, take his money, and he is left for dead. The rest of the movie is Porter trying to get revenge (and his half of the money).

Even though Porter's a thief and quite certifiable, you can't help but feel bad for him. All he wants is his money, but people keep trying to kill him. At least he keeps a sense of humor about him while killing everybody else first.

This movie has a lot of senseless violence, but at least half of it is funny. There are also a few touching moments spread throughout the movie, giving it a blend of action, comedy, and drama that should please all audiences (except those of you who just want to see Mel Gibson's ass).

"...the Brian Helgeland-directed Payback, features the star in a familiar, Mad Max-like anti-hero role, killing off villains with no remorse and exhibiting only the slightest hint of a mischievous wink. (Of course, part of Payback's spark comes from the classic novel upon which it was based, Donald E. Westlake's The Hunter, which is also the source material for John Boorman's Point Blank, starring Lee Marvin.)" *

-The Players-

Mel Gibson plays Porter, the main character. He's "a career criminal bent on revenge after his partners in a street heist pump metal into him and take off with his $70,000 cut."

Gregg Henry plays Val, Porter's partner in crime and the man who shoots him in the back and steals his money and his woman. He's a sadistic sucker with a penchant for being rough with the ladies.

Maria Bello plays Rose, an upscale call girl that works for The Outfit. She's the only person Porter can trust, she also happens to have a large beast of a dog who's name is...Porter. Go figure.

David Paymer plays Stegman,"one of Val's underlings, the Don of the lowly cab Mafia who yearns to be part of The Outfit." He's basically a drug-selling weasel who sucks up to the bigger players.

Deborah Kara Unger plays Lynn, Porter's wife and betrayer. She got pissed when she saw a picture of him with Rose, all's fair in love and war right? She also happens to be quite the junkie.

William Devane plays Carter, one of the heads of The Outfit, he is Val's boss. Porter's moxy intrigues and disturbs him, he doesn't like the idea of someone walking casually into their hotel and smacking their guys around.

Bill Duke plays Detective Hicks, a dirty cop who hangs around Stegman's place. In the way of all dirty cops he's greedy, so when he sees an opportunity to make a buck off Porter, he jumps at the chance.

Kris Kristofferson plays Bronson, the head of The Outfit. The absolute big dog, the boss of bosses, the head honcho..."the man." He underestimates Porter's determination to get his money, something he'll regret no doubt.

Lucy Liu plays Pearl, a vision in tight black vinyl. She is the ultimate Mistress, giving Val as much pain as he dishes out, quite possibly more. She's also very friendly with the Chinese Mafia.

-The Film-

The movie begins with a close up of a cigarette being snubbed in a filthy ashtray. The scene is quiet except for the sounds of a drink being poured, the tinkling of surgical instruments against glass, and a swallow as a man takes a deep swig of whiskey. Then you hear the deep, rusty voice of Porter seconds before the camera pans to his limp, bleeding body on a table.

GSW. That's what the hospitals call it. Gun shot wound. Doctor has to report it to the police. That makes it hard for guys in my line to get what I call...quality health care. Not many men know what their life's worth. I do. Seventy grand. That's what they took from me, and that's what I was going to get back.
The story picks up from there, Porter is being mended after being shot in the back by his wife and his partner. His mission in this movie is to "payback" Val for the double cross and to get back the money he rightfully earned, $70,000. Exactly one half of the chunk they lifted from the Chinese Mafia. Unfortunately for him, his job isn't going to be easy. Val took the money and used it to buy his way into The Outfit, the big dogs in town. They are the elite, the cream of the crop in the crime world. The richest and most powerful organization around. They used to be known as The Syndicate, but for some reason that is never explained decided they needed to upgrade with the times and thought The Outfit was more hip.

The Outfit really doesn't care about Val or what Porter wants to do with Val. They're pretty sick of him and his erratic behavior and would see Porter picking him off as a pleasant surprise, except that Val makes it their problem too. Porter tracked Val to his suite in The Outfit's hotel so he's brought trouble into their territory, and they don't like that. With a pair of crooked cops dogging his every step, along with Stegman their lacky, The Outfit tracking his move trying to decide if they will kill him or not and the Chinese Mafia showing up at inconvenient times to give him an extra bit of lead in his diet, Porter has his hands full.

-Personal Opinion-

This is the kind of movie I can watch several times a week without getting tired of it. There's something about the blue tint it's filmed in that gives it an old school detective movie feel to it, and serves as a constant reminder that it's a movie without any real good guys. There are no innocents in this film, all of the characters are prostitutes, thieves, murderers, drug dealers or just plain thugs. The music for the film sets up each scene wonderfully, having an upbeat rhythm for the scenes with Porter that lends to the anticipation of his actions and reactions. The movie is just plain funny too. It's not all drama, beaten women and gun shot wounds. There are occasional tender moments, and more often scenes that bring a healthy smile to your face. One of the running jokes is that all he wants is $70,000 but everyone thinks that's too measly an amount so they tend to increase it to $140,000. It gets on his nerves. The lines in the movie are excellent. Some of my favorite quotes are Lucy Liu lines as the character Pearl.

That's Mistress Pearl you piece of dogshit.

* Mel on Mel, by Joshua Klein, The Onion
Official Movie Website,
Quotes from the movie, ISBN 0-7921-6259-5

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