Review: PAYBACK – a 90’s neo-noir classic for #FBF

The description of tough-as-nails and slick-as-shit has to belong to career criminal Porter. Now as far as that being his first or last name we’ll never know because that’s all he calls himself. Based on that, you might probably know what our FBF this week is. Just in case you don’t, it is the Mel Gibson revenge flick Payback. With a title like that and Mel Gibson in the lead, you WANT this movie to bring it and it fucking does.

The movie starts out with Porter (Gibson, keep up, kids) laying on a table getting operated on in some nasty looking room with an even nastier looking doctor while Porter narrates what happened to him. This scene and characters could’ve come straight out of Sin City or one of those hard boiled 70’s movies that only starred Lee Marvin or Charles Bronson.


Now as the movie gets going we find out that on a job to rob Chinese gangsters, Porter gets double crossed and shot in the back by his wife Lynn and his partner in crime Val. Mendacious deceit at it’s finest. A badass like Porter doesn’t go out like that, he survives the gunshot wounds and wants to get his money back, kill Val and teach his wife a lesson.

Mel Gibson in Payback.

The thing with Val is that he used the money to buy his way back into “The Syndicate,” so he’s connected to some very high-ups. So, Porter, almost kinda like a retail customer wanting his refund, starts going through management. He gets to the very top of the food chain of bad guys (James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson) who are also baffled by the fact that Porter is doing all this for only $70,000. Crazy, huh?

Gibson, at the time, was really more known for his good guy roles in Braveheart, Ransom and the Lethal Weapon series (oh, and two points for you if you catch the Lethal Weapon nods) so him playing a bad guy (he’s only the hero in this movie by default) was a bit of a stretch. With everything that has gone on in his personal life, this character feels a bit more authentic. The thing with this is – it fits Gibson so well. Gibson even went on to play another Porter type of character in the movies Get the Gringo and Blood Father (great movies, get on them if you haven’t watched them) and based on the trailers to Daddy’s Home 2, it looks like he’s back at it again. So it’s good that he’s embracing his dark side if people still look at him in that light right now.

Gregg Henry and Lucy Liu in Payback.

Another special thing about this film is the problems the movie had while in production. Nothing to do with Gibson being a dick or anything like that, but director Brian Helgeland and Gibson (who was also the producer and won an Oscar for directing Braveheart) had two different views on how the movie should’ve played out. So, Paramount with Gibson’s blessing (who also liked the director’s cut but wanted to put out a movie an audience would like) released the director’s cut on DVD. Lots of changes and an alternate ending that was a bit grim for the character of Porter. You can see why Gibson went with the theatrical cut.

As previously mentioned, Daddy’s Home 2 is coming out soon and if you can get just sit back and enjoy a movie based on its merits alone, watch Payback. It’ll remind you of why Mel Gibson was so damn good in the first place.

Catch Mando on Twitter at @manbat33 when he’s not co-hosting the @TalentedSlacker podcast!