Payback Information

Payback is a 1999 American crime thriller directed by Brian Helgeland and starring Mel Gibson. The film shares the same source material as the 1967 noir-classic Point Blank, directed by John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin; both are based on the book The Hunter, written by Donald E. Westlake under the pseudonym of Richard Stark.

The film was Helgeland's directorial debut after a career as a screenwriter. Helgeland in 2006 issued a director's cut that differs substantially from the version released by the studio.


In a seedy basement, Porter (Mel Gibson) lies severely wounded with two gunshot wounds in his back. A whiskey drinking surgeon removes the bullets and Porter spends months healing.

He then begins tracking down Val Resnick (Gregg Henry), his former partner, and Lynn (Deborah Unger), his ex-wife, both of whom betrayed Porter and left him for dead following a $140,000 heist from the Chinese triads. After leaving Porter for dead, Val rejoined the Outfit, a powerful criminal organization, using $130,000 of the heist money to repay an outstanding debt. Porter is intent on reclaiming his $70,000 cut and gets himself a gun by pawning watches.

Porter enlists the help of a call girl, Rosie (Maria Bello), who is affiliated with the Outfit. Porter once served as her driver, during which time they developed a romantic friendship, which ultimately was the reason behind Porter's wife conspiring against him. To get his money, Porter is forced to deal not only with Resnick but with a lowlife named Stegman (David Paymer), with crime bosses from the Outfit, with the Chinese triads and with corrupt police detectives Hicks and Leary (Bill Duke and Jack Conley).

He first finds Val and kills him with a revolver in Rosie's apartment. He then kills three of the Outfit's hit squad henchmen, including leader, Philip (John Glover), who have been sent by Outfit boss, Carter (William Devane) to "Stitch this mutt up."

Following several unsuccessful attempts to reclaim his $70,000, Porter shoots Carter.

With the aid of Rosie, he kidnaps Johnny, the son of Bronson (Kris Kristofferson), the Outfit's head, and arranges for Hicks and Leary to be busted by their own colleagues in Internal Affairs by planting Leary's finger prints on the gun Porter used to kill Resnick, pick pocketing Hick's badge, then leaving both in the vicinity of Resnick's dead body.

The mob's top figures, Bronson and Fairfax (James Coburn), join the hunt to take him down. Porter is captured by the Outfit after a wild chain of events involving the triads. After being tortured by having his toes smashed with a hammer, Porter lures Bronson and his men to an apartment that had previously been rigged by the Outfit's men to a phone connected to plastic explosive. After they meet an explosive demise, Porter and Rosie (with her dog, also named Porter) drive off to Canada to begin a new life.

Director's Cut

The Director's cut has a largely similar foundation but explores the betrayal of Porter through flashbacks and most significantly removes the Bronson character from the screen. Instead a female voice (belonging to Sally Kellerman) on the telephone replaces Kris Kristofferson. Porter does not kidnap Bronson's son nor is he in turn kidnapped. Val kills Rosie's dog Porter. The simplified story line ends with Porter collecting his money at an arranged drop in a train station where he has several shootouts with syndicate hit-men staking out the station. He is seriously wounded and seemingly near death before being driven away by Rosie with the money. The Director's cut also lacks the theatrical version's voice-over narration by Porter.



The film was shot during September/November 1997, in Chicago and Los Angeles, though neither city is referred to in the film. Although credited as director, Brian Helgeland's cut of the film was not the theatrical version released to audiences. After the end of principal photography, Helgeland's version was deemed too dark for the mainstream public. Following a script rewrite by Terry Hayes, director Helgeland was replaced by the production designer John Myhre, who reshot 30% of the film. The intent was to make the Porter character accessible. The film's tagline became: "Get Ready to Root for the Bad Guy." A potentially controversial scene of spousal abuse was excised and more plot elements were added to the third act. After 10 days of reshoots, a new opening scene and voiceover track also were added, and Kris Kristofferson walked on as a new villain.

After her stint on TV's ER this was Maria Bello's first 'major' film.

Helgeland's version, Straight Up: The Director's Cut, was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and HD DVD on April 10, 2007, after an October 2006 run at the Austin Film Festival. The Director's Cut version features a female Bronson, voiced by Sally Kellerman, rather than the male Bronson in the other version, and an entirely different, ambiguous ending.


On the DVD release there is a short interview with Mel Gibson in which he stated that it "Would've been ideal to shoot in black and white". He noted that "people want a color image" and that the actual film used a "Bleach bypass process" to tint the movie.


Payback was well received at the box office. The film made $21,221,526 in its opening weekend in North America. It eventually grossed $81,526,121 in North America and $80,100,000 in other territories, totaling $161,626,121 worldwide.

The film garnered mediocre reviews, with film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 53% of 73 sampled critics gave the film positive reviews and that it got a rating average of 5.8 out of 10.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Payback_%281999_film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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