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Payback: Straight Up (DC)
DVD disk
04.10.2007 By: Mathew Plale
Payback: Straight Up (DC) order
Director:
Brian Helgeland

Actors:
Mel Gibson
Gregg Henry
Maria Bello

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After being betrayed by his girlfriend and partner, Porter (Mel Gibson) seeks revenge...what? That's it, scroll down.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Some may remember Payback as the film where Mel Gibson, after years of heart-throbbing and Sexiest Man Alive-in’, turned baddie as a money-hungry, gun-toting madman. Here’s what is more memorable: This is the movie that expects us to believe that Tom Arnold’s sidekick in Carpool (David Paymer) is a drugrunner who can intimidate Mad Max!

Payback was originally released in 1999, with Brian Helgeland credited as director, even after he was replaced by production designer (ouch, that’s gotta hurt) John Myhre. This Straight Up edition is what director Brian Helgeland intended us to see…even though it’s pretty bad itself.

But for whatever it’s worth, it’s interesting to see Gibson portray someone so unlikable--a premonition to his alcoholic, anti-Semitic days as a media anti-Christ. But unlike Gibson’s current antics, we’re supposed to ‘Get ready to root for the bad guy,’ as the film’s tagline goes. Unfortunately, Gibson’s Porter is about as sympathetic as, well, Mel Gibson. Any charisma that Gibson had is absent in Payback, as he mulls around, lucky that his hard-hitting question “Where is so-and-so?” works every time.

The script (by director Helgeland and Terry Hayes, based on Donald E. Westlake’s novel The Hunter, which in turn inspired 1967’s Point Blank), aside from story problems, is wasteful to secondary characters. Take Val’s (Gregg Henry) date for the night, a masochistic hooker (Lucy Liu) who spouts out degrading lines like “Me love you long time.”

But there are some solid moments in Payback, like the cheesy, accidentally funny scenes between Porter and Val, or the bleached, neo-noir feel that provides a heartbeat to an otherwise morgue-of-a-film.

Payback is a revenge film broken down to the sub-genre’s most generic factors: man is double-crossed by partner, girlfriend stabs him in back, man hunts down villains, Mel Gibson fires a gun. This is basically all that Helgeland and his Straight-Up Payback offers.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by Writer/Director Brian Helgeland: Helgeland seems proud of his film, even if there are far too many gaps. Though he’s more into telling us what’s going on on-screen, he does tell a funny story about how he got fired from the film less than a week after winning an Academy Award.

Paybacks Are a Bitch: On Set in Chicago (30:01) and LA (19:38): With a half hour spent in Chicago, and nearly 20 mins. in the City of Angels, these bits run a bit long. Even so, the title is a bit misleading, since these pieces are more reflections from the cast/crew (Richard Donner included) on the evolution of Payback. This is a lot more interesting than it should’ve been.
PS—Gibson sports that wacky Apocalypto beard.

Same Story, Different Movie – Creating The Director’s Cut (28:54): The disc wouldn’t be complete without the addition to this companion piece, which goes into how the film was cut to be made audience-friendly, and the differences between the DVD-cut and the theatrical-cut. A bit long, but very informative for those who haven’t seen the original version.

The Hunter: A Conversation with Author Donald E. Westlake (10:47) is just what it sounds like: an unenlightening discussion with Westlake, and how he has to think of different ways to write “Parker parks” in his novels.

And some Previews.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Payback doesn't have a whole lot to offer that you haven't seen before in an action-revenge film. In fact, you can pretty much guess what the next scene will turn out to be. Even so, it's still an occasionally fun little flick on a disc with a number of fine extras.
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