Payback (1999) – Review

4 Stars

Payback is a somewhat forgotten flick in Mel Gibson’s lengthy film canon. It’s a mean, violent, intense and immeasurably entertaining flick with a fantastic star turn for Gibson. The actor seems to relish the chance to play such an unlikable character in a film that so taut​ and concisely written. Director/Writer Brian Helgeland delivers an excellent crime drama from a script he solely authored.

After a successful heist, Porter (Mel Gibson) is a career criminal. After successfully stealing $140,000 from the Chinese triads his wife (Deborah Kara Unger) and former partner (Gregg Henry) steal the money, shoot him and leave him for dead — or so they think. Now, after 5 months in recovery, he’s out to exact revenge and reclaim his share of the loot.

The troubled road through production to eventual release overshadowed the fact that Payback is a stellar hard-boiled treat for fans of Gibson and/or the film noir genre. Revisiting the picture after two decades the film still holds up and is a great example of star-driven studio filmmaking in the latter part of the nineties. Despite all the noise during its theatrical run about production issues the film shows no signs of post-production tinkering or the reported removal of original director Brian Helgeland.

Director: Brian Helgeland
Stars: Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello

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