Payback - D+
Viewed February 6, 1999 at the Village 7

A near-complete misfire, Payback is a sadistic and boring mishmash of black comedy and more conventional pulp fiction. I haven't seen Point Blank, John Boorman's 1967 take on the same source material (Richard Stark's The Hunter), but it has to be better than this drivel.

As black comedy, the film is painfully unfunny as it mistakes brutal beatings for humor. As a more conventional revenge drama, the film is hurt by Mel Gibson's worst-ever career performance. For some reason, he doesn't project the same air of borderline psychosis as he did in the first Lethal Weapon and the first half of Conspiracy Theory -- which is odd, since Porter is clearly a psychopath. Instead, he goes for a stoic badassness, and creates a thorough bore of a crook lacking in either wit or charm. The film also does not bear the scars of the production fight between Brian Helgeland and Mel Gibson well. (Not that it matters much -- I suspect the film was crap to begin with before it was extensively reshot.) The only bright spot in all this mess is a couple of appealing character turns by the likes of James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson.