Monday, September 22, 2008
#71: Payback: Straight Up (Director's Cut)
Payback: Straight Up
Directed by Brian Helgeland
Written by Brian Helgeland (based on Donald Westlake's "The Hunter")
Released to DVD April 10, 2007
I already mentioned the story behind this version of Payback, the 1999 Mel Gibson remake of Point Blank (which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago). Director Brian Helgeland was fired as the film's director mere days after he won an Oscar for his work on L.A. Confidential. Reportedly, the producer's (and probably Gibson, though the star did help to get this director's version out years later) didn't like how dark Helgeland had taken the story.
Dark is right, and in this case, dark is good. Gibson's Porter is not "morally ambiguous" as one reviewer describes him; he's a bad guy. Christ, the movie opens with him choking and robbing a homeless man for enough cash to buy himself a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. Porter just happens to be the better man compared to most of the bad guys in Payback.
Since I've already gone into depth about the story in Point Blank, I'll cut to the chase and say simply that while the original Payback is a pretty damn good movie, featuring one of Gibson's last interesting performances (he's no Lee Marvin, but he still makes for an intimidating heavy), Helgeland's cut is an even better, leaner film. It's 15 minutes shorter, with no voiceover narration and a vibe that seems more like an ode to the late 60s and early 70s crime films that the producers were going for.
The supporting cast is especially good, including Lucy Liu as a sadistic prostitute, William Devane as the head of the crime syndicate, the always lovable Bill Duke as a corrupt detective, and the always shady Gregg Henry as Porter's betraying buddy Val.
While not as as great in that hypnotic, psychedelic sense that Point Blank is, Helgeland's Payback is still a damn good time. Plus, there's even a pretty hilarious cameo by James Coburn.
For more on Payback: Straight Up:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- A interview with Helgeland about the DVD.
- Buy the DVD.
The Payback robbery (Note: this footage is not from the director's cut... I am having the damndest time actually finding footage from that version online):