Payback (1999) starring Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, David Paymer, Bill Duke, Deborah Kara Unger directed by Brian Helgeland Movie Review

Payback (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Mel Gibson in Payback (1999)

Mel is Mad to the Max

Porter (Mel Gibson - Lethal Weapon 4) is not a nice man; he is a thief and killer who will do over anyone including stealing money from a beggar's hat on the street. Along with Val Resnick (Gregg Henry) and his own wife (Deborah Kara Unger - The Hurricane) they pulled of $140,000 heist. That is when things go bad as Resnick shot Porter twice and left him for dead, except he didn't die and 5 months after being treated by a back alley doctor, the sort who uses whisky as a pain killer, Porter is out for revenge with a little help from hooker with a heart of gold Rosie (Maria Bello - The Company Men). But whilst Porter wants his $70,000, not a penny more or a penny less he wants to destroy the crime syndicate who Resnick works for.

There are various things I could mention about "Payback" such as it is another version of Donald E. Westlake's "The Hunter" which 22 years earlier was made into "Point Blank". But I am going to keep it down to three things starting with Mel Gibson. Mel Gibson is the key to why this movie works as he is playing a bad guy, a nasty piece of work with a violent side but because it is Gibson he is likeable. It means that whilst some of the things which Porter does are unsettling we still champion him and because Gibson has a natural humour to the way he acts and says things we find some of his actions bordering on the amusing.

Gregg Henry in Payback (1999)

But whilst Gibson's performance is key to the movies success it also down to director Brian Helgeland as he has a sharp and brutal style. Some might like to call his style noir where as I say modern gritty with nice use of camera angles, lighting as well as dark rooms to create an interesting but not artsy movie. That is one of the strengths of "Payback" because it is lush with style but it never goes too far and becomes pretentious. It also has the right pace and energy which keeps you involved in every single scene rather than waiting for the next one to start

And the third thing, well "Payback" is violent from start to finish, but as I said it is almost comically entertaining. After pulling off the heist which sees them crashing into a car with Chinese men in it Resnick drops a line along the lines of an hour after beating up Chinese guys you want to again. And there is plenty more of these sorts of scenes which will knock you back by the brutal violence but then make you smile because of a line of dialogue, the look of a character or a mannerism.

What this all boils down to is that "Payback" is good old fashioned Mel Gibson entertainment where he plays a dangerous character but one which is likeable despite being brutal with his violence. Will it leave a lasting impression, not really but it is the sort of movie which you would happily watch again.