Payback (1999)

Rating: **
Release Date: 2/5/99
Cast: Mel Gibson, Maria Bello, Lucy Liu, Deborah Unger, James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson

Here's a film that tries to be gritty and realistic but just comes off as boring and silly. Best described by The Seattle Times as "Mel Gibson's first Burt Reynolds film", it's little more than a meandering narrative and character study of a mean and tough son-of-a-bitch named Porter (Gibson) who's determined to get revenge for being shot, robbed, and left for dead. Apart from Porter, none of the characters are very interesting or very likable, and the film just staggers from one violent encounter to the next as Porter gets closer to his goal, and by the end, no one cares what happens. On the plus side, Mel Gibson is great and plays the dislikable Porter with a combination of flair and reserved authority - you do NOT want to mess with him. Also in the plus category is that the film is very visually attractive - the use of blue filters throughout the entire film creates a very cool and crisp looking environment, which also causes the blood in the film to be even more striking. Asian babe Lucy Liu is on hand as an extremely attractive sadist for hire, but she's way too extreme and over the top to be even remotely interesting, which is a shame. Definitely a disappointment, and especially for action film fans.