With Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, David Paymer, Deborah Kara Unger, William Devane, Kris Kristofferson, James Coburn
Directed by Brian Helgeland
Based on The Hunter by Richard Stark
by Scott Hefflon
Good movie, but not nearly up to its hype. But what else is new? Payback is the return of the mean Mel Gibson from Road Warrior (his voice is deeper and gruffer than it has been in years), yet with the humor the man is famous for. While he’s too old for the shit the Lethal Weapon series has become, he’s not too old to roll his eyes at someone as they pick up a gun as if to say, “I can’t believe you picked up that gun. You do realize I’m now going to shoot you while shaking my head sadly at you, you dumb sonuvabitch.” The trouble is, action movies have desensitized us so much, Porter (Gibson) really doesn’t do anything that mean or bad, as all the posters and commercials would like us to believe. And if one more person cites the “Yeah, well he stole change from a beggar’s hat!” scene that was added specifically to give you the impression he was bad, I think I’m going to fuckin’ scream. Duh, people.
The plot is simple, and no one really gives a shit anyway. Sigh. OK… Porter gets stiffed for 70 grand and is out to get it back. He’s double-crossed a few times, people beat him up, people lie to him and avoid him, and he tracks down his money like a man obsessed. The important thing here is that there are interesting new ways he gets out of the usual bad situations, there are gun shots and explosions, not to mention some hot chicks. Oh, and good one-liners. Gotta have them. The chick from Allie McBeal is a tasty and mean dominatrix dressed in skin-tight leather, James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson are classic as tough, powerful bad guys who are caught off guard by the determination of “our hero,” and Mel is in top comic form. There’s cool camera work and a distinctive blue-green tint to the city scenes, for those of you who care about such things.