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Payback

Director: Brian Helgeland
Writers: Helgeland and Terry Hayes
Paramount; R; 110 minutes
Release: 2/99
Cast: Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello and Kris Kristofferson

Film noir implies stylization; it makes one think of black-and-white stock shot with atmospheric contrasts teasing mystery out of a hard city. Payback implies nothing, slamming the viewer with stock phrases, senseless violence and escalating sadism, all imparted with the subtlety of a truck. Mel Gibson's flatly criminal character wants redress — his junkie ex-wife and treasonous partner stole his stolen dough. Criminal morality, it seems, is either complex or irrelevant, possibly both. Porter (Gibson) must slog through unprecedented amounts of gore and detritus to get it back, although there's time for a pit stop with an old flame. (Like nearly every other woman in the movie, she's a prostitute). Asian-American characters are portrayed with crippling stereotypes, another low point among Payback's many.


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