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Payback (1999)

Reviewed By Greg Muskewitz
Posted 09/17/00 13:47:24

"The masochist movie of the year!"
3 stars (Average)

There are some movies that are so completely unbelievable, often you wonder why those actions are thrown into movies. But other times, those preposterous actions are fun, and you go along with it. Such is the case with “Payback,” which from the first line said to the last, you don’t believe a single thing that’s going on, but you go for it just for the heck of it.

Mel Gibson stars as Porter, you make the decision whether it’s his first name or last. He’s a bad guy, just the same as everyone else, maybe with the exception of Maria Bello as Rosie. Approximately three years ago, Porter was double crossed by good friend Val (Gregg Henry) and wife Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger) for $70,000. Everyone thought him to be dead –that is until he resurfaces.

Starting over from scratch, Porter must relocate Val using a chain-of-command to work his way up until he gets the $70,000. Along the way he encounters some quirky characters in the lineage of David Lynch perversities. An enumeration of quirks include: Lucy Liu (“Ally McBeal”) as Pearl, a S&Ming dominatrix of enormous proportions; David Paymer as Stegman, an underling who wants to make it on top; and James Coburn as Fairafax, another Syndicate boss who’s more worried about his alligator bags than his people, as well as many more!

Rumor has it that it’s true writer/director Brian Helgeland was fired by Gibson (post-production), but he has continued his stylized look underneath the norm, and into duplicity (he also wrote “Conspiracy Theory” and co-wrote “L.A. Confidential”). “Payback” seems to be in line with our hunger for crime movies (“Out of Sight,” “Get Shorty,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown,” etc), but it is lacking in many areas, one of the biggest being the lack of cohesivity. The biggest problem however, was the blue tint in which it was filmed in. Talk about annoying, you could never get used to it. “Payback” is still a good transitory piece, and my advocacy comes from Lucy Liu’s stunning and malicious performance. Liu is hilarious, and ergo, I hereby name this the masochistic movie of the year. “Payback” is wildly perverse and never goes for the obvious.

Final Verdict: B-.

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