Volume 92, Issue 74

Tuesday, February 9, 1999


Student art thinks for itself

Mel's back and it's time to pay

Evil toys with techno while Leeb lives

Mel's back and it's time to pay

Photo by Andrew Cooper
LET'S CUT THE CRAP, BECAUSE I'VE GOT A THREE O'CLOCK. Gibson keeps a busy schedule in new action/thriller Payback.

By Dan Nedelcu

Gazette Staff

In this day and age, it is hard to find a movie which is able to justify the use of excessive violence without lacking character development and story believability. Well, for all you fans who enjoy the occasional bullet to the head or torture sequence – it's Payback time.

A loose remake of John Boorman's 1967 revenge flick Point Blank, Payback is the latest effort from Aussie superstar Mel Gibson. After years of playing heroic characters, Gibson goes in a different direction with Payback's protagonist, Porter – a character who is anything but heroic or morally sound. This explains the film trailer warning audiences to "Get ready to cheer for the bad guy."

How twisted are Porter's scruples? In the first 10 minutes of the film he robs a street beggar, picks a man's pocket, stiffs a waiter and commits credit card fraud. One might find it hard to applaud such a character, but when everyone else around him is even worse, it simplifies things.

The scenario of Payback is fairly simple and straightforward. It is a movie about revenge and getting even. When we first see Porter, he is getting two bullets removed from his back. The character tells us through narration that "not every man finds out how much his life is worth. I found out mine is worth $70,000. That's how much they took from me and I plan to get it back."

The $70,000 is Porter's share of a robbery which turned into a double-cross at the hands of his sadistic partner and junkie wife. After a five-month recovery, Porter comes back to fill the holes.

However, as the movie progresses it becomes clear the issue of money is not Porter's only motive. When offered $130,000 by the colourful members of the crime syndicate, Outfit, of which his ex-partner is now a member, he insists on getting only what is his and not a penny more. This element draws comedic attention from the viewer throughout the movie.

Writer of L.A.Confidential and The Postman, Payback is Brian Helgeland's directorial debut. He must realize some of the screenwritten dialogue in Payback is weak, so he counteracts this by demanding strong performances from Gibson and the rest of the cast.

Helgeland also uses some intriguing angles for shots – including a shot where a car seems to drive right over Gibson's face. He also plays around with the aesthetic quality of the film. By taking out some of the brighter colours and using a grainier stock for the texture, he creates a glum and dreary place where redemption is a bullet away.

Payback is solid entertainment for those viewers who have a high threshold for screen violence. It doesn't glorify violence as much as it uses it in a stylish manner, something some might find unpalatable. However, those who don't find excessive violence offensive will probably want to see this film more than once.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999