Man, did I ever end up disappointing myself. You see, a while ago I had a couple of scenes from today’s movie going through my head. Since I saw this in theaters and rather enjoyed it, I didn’t think twice about going ahead and picking up a copy. So I did just that about a month ago but a hectic life caused me to be unable to watch until about a week ago, and it was just as enjoyable as remembered it…..until I got to the end. Suddenly, the movie ended in a completely different way than I remember it in the theaters. So I look at the DVD case and to my surprise, I got the director’s cut, which was about 10 minutes shorter and had a different ending. So yeh, I have to live with my disappointment, at least until I buy a normal copy of today’s movie, Payback.
The plot: A man named Porter heads into New York City and steals some money from a beggar, which he uses to buy some coffee and food at a diner. Afterwards, he pickpockets the wallet from a man that looks similar to him, and uses the man’s credit cards and ID to get some cash and buy a new suit and some expensive watches. Porter then pawns the watches in exchange for a gun and some cash, then continues using the cards until they are reported cancelled. That night, Porter follows his wife Lynn and breaks into her apartment, surprising Lynn as she believed Porter was dead, and when he asks her where Val was, she tells him she doesn’t know. They start to talk but when Lynn tries to attack him over his being with another girl, Val defends himself and then grabs the picture and says it was from before he had met her. He explains that he used to be the driver for the girl in the photo and would keep her safe while she worked, causing Lynn to collapse when she realizes she was wrong. Porter carries Lynn to their bedroom, where he discovers some heroin in her jewelry box and Lynn tries to grab it from him but Porter grabs it and locks her in the bedroom. The next morning, Porter goes to check on Lynn but finds that she had overdosed on some heroin she had hidden in a shoe. After grabbing the needle and jamming it into the wall, hanging his ring from it in the process, Porter lays down beside Lynn’s body and thinks about what brought him to this place. Months earlier, Porter met with his partner Val near Chinatown and the two watch as a Chinese syndicate is making one of their routine money pick-ups. As Val explains the routine and how much money is usually in the case, Porter asks him how much money he needs to pay off his debt to The Outfit, the criminal organization they work for, and Val admits he needs $130,000. That Friday, Porter and Val rob the Chinese by crashing a car into theirs, then Porter grabs the briefcase and gets in the getaway car that Lynn had pulled up in, yelling at Val as he was busy beating up one of the men in the car. After heading to a parking garage, Lynn begins counting the money and says it is $140,000 total. Val says that it isn’t enough but Porter says he doesn’t care, telling Lynn to put his share in a duffel bag. As Val starts acting more manic, Porter gets ready in case he tries to double cross him, Val tells Porter that he lied and that there is always $140,000 in the suitcase. Lynn pulls a gun on Porter and shoots him several times in the back and as Porter lies dying on the ground, Val tells Lynn to put all of the money in the car, then shows Porter the picture of him with another woman, admitting that he showed Lynn the picture in order to turn her against him. Val is broken out of his memories by a pounding on the door and finds the drop off man that brings Lynn her payment and heroin. Porter assaults the man and asks where Val is but the delivery boy says he gets the envelope from a man named Arthur Stegman. Porter heads to Stegman’s business, where he interrupts an illegal gambling ring in the back of it. Two crooked cops, Hicks and Leary, are gambling there and curious about Porter’s business but when Porter throws the heroin back at Stegman, Stegman quickly asks Porter to walk outside to talk. Porter asks Stegman where Val is but Stegman says he doesn’t know where he is, ust that he is still in the city, and Porter tells Stegman to get a message to Val saying that Porter is coming for his money. Meanwhile, Val is meeting up with a Chinese dominatrix named Pearl at his apartment when he receives word about Stegman trying to get in touch with him and goes to meet him. When Stegman tells Val that Porter was the one looking for him, Val gets upset, threatening some of the restaurant patrons in his anger. Meanwhile, Porter heads to a hotel and speaks with a bartender, who is The Outfit’s contact for their prostitution ring and has him contact a prostitute named Rosie, who is the girl from the picture. Porter heads to Rosie’s apartment and she embraces him as she is glad to know he is alive, then offers her condolences when he tells her Lynn was dead. Inviting him inside, she calls off her dog, which she had named Porter after him. Porter asks her about Val and she says that he is probably staying at the Outfit’s hotel but worries about what will happen if he gets caught and interrogated. Porter promises he won’t mention her, saying he will tell them he got the location from Stegman, and Rosie gives him the address. Porter breaks into Val’s apartment and surprises Val and Pearl as they are in bed. Porter asks for his money and when Val says he doesn’t have it, he allows Pearl to start beating him, then tells Val to meet him at noon with the money. As he goes to leave, he asks Val about the picture and knocks him out after Val says he beat her. The next day, Val goes to see Carter, his superior in the Outfit, and he is told to handle the Porter situation himself. After leaving the building, Val calls Pearl, who is part of the Chinese Triad, and she tells him her friends are there to get revenge for Porter stealing their money. When Porter goes to meet Val, the Triad hit him with their car and prepare to attack him but Hicks and Leary pull up and scare them off. Hicks and Leary help Porter up and tell him that unless he wants to go to jail for Lynn’s murder, then he will give them the money and they let him go but Porter manages to pickpocket Hick’s badge while they are pushing him around. Porter heads to Rosie’s apartment to get his wounds tended too but Val follows him without Porter realizing it. As Rosie tends to his wounds, she sees the picture of the two of them and asks Porter why he quit being her driver. She felt like it was because they slept together but Porter says it was the next day when he had to drive her to work. As Porter gets ready to leave, the two end up kissing but Porter breaks it off and leaves before they get too carried away. When Rosie hears a knock at the door, she opens it thinking it is Porter but Val is there holding a gun to her head. When he asks where Porter is, she tells him he is in the bedroom but when he heads there, he is attacked by her dog. Val shoots the dog and Rosie attacks him with a bat but he grabs it from her and strikes her. Recognizing her from the photo, he asks her about Porter but she refuses to tell him anything so he goes to shoot her but Porter shows up, having come back for his cigarettes, shoots Val. Porter questions Val about who leads the Outfit and he tells him that his superior is Carter and Porter eventually kills Val. Heading to see Carter, Porter sees Hicks and Leary waiting outside the hotel and puts the gun he killed Val with inside a newspaper. Leaning down to talk to them, he is surprised to see Stegman in the car, who informs Porter that he is getting cut into the money, and Porter has Leary hold onto the gun, saying he will be frisked inside. When Porter gets in to see Carter, he quickly takes out Carter’s bodyguards before holding a gun to Carter and demands his money. Carter says he can’t authorize a payment so Porter has Carter call the Outfit’s head, Bronson, which Carter says is a “she”. Speaking with Bronson, Porter asks for his money threatening to kill Carter if she doesn’t give it to him and when Bronson refuses, Porter shoots Carter. Leaving the building, Porter gets his gun back from Leary then returns to Rosie’s apartment, where he places the gun, as well as Hicks’ badge, next to the body. The next day, Porter heads out to see Carter’s boss Fairfax, who had returned to deal with the mess, and Porter catches him just as he enters his apartment. Porter has Fairfax call Bronson and when Porter threatens to kill Fairfax, Bronson relents and agrees to give Porter his money. Porter arranges the drop off location and leaves, with Hicks, Leary, Stegman, and Stegman’s assistant keeping watch on him. Before they can follow him, Hicks and Leary are approached by Internal Affairs and some officers, who are there to question them about Hick’s badge and Leary’s fingerprints being found on a gun at a murder scene. Stegman and his assistant pick up Porter and Stegman plans on turning him over to the Outfit but before they can, they are ambushed by Pearl and the Triad. Stegman and his assistant are killed but Porter manages to avoid being shot and shoots back at the Triad, killing the 4 men. Pearl gets the drop on Porter but her gun is out of bullets and When Porter goes to shoot her, his gun is also empty so he simply walks away. Heading to a train station, Porter takes care of the Outfit men that are there to kill him, then waits for the man carrying the money. When the money arrives, Porter is ambushed by some more of the Outfit’s hitmen but manages to take them out, though he is shot in the process. Stumbling down the stairs to the outside, Porter kills the last of the hitmen before collapsing onto the sidewalk. As Porter lays there dying, Rosie pulls up and slaps him into consciousness before getting him into her car and the two drive away from the city together.
Payback met with mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 54% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Sadistic violence and rote humor saddle a predictable action premise.” When principal shooting had finished on the movie, the film was considered too dark for the mainstream public so the studio ordered a script rewrite and the director (Brian Helgeland) was replaced by the production designer to reshoot the scenes that would be released as the theatrical version, though Helgeland’s version would be released as a director’s cut on DVD and Blu-Ray. The movie was a mild hit at the box office, earning $161.6 million off of a $90 million budget.
I am kind of torn as to how to rate this movie. For the most part, it is pretty much like the theatrical version and I really enjoyed that, but I honestly didn’t care for the ending in this version. All told, the acting was pretty good, with Mel Gibson doing a good job as Porter. Maria Bello (Rosie), Gregg Henry (Val), and Lucy Liu (Pearl) were also good, though I was upset that we don’t get to see Kris Kristofferson as Bronson, as remember him being pretty good as well. The story was pretty good; with the somewhat methodical pacing mixing well with the action and the bit of dark humor that was found throughout the movie. I also liked the running gag throughout the movie of everyone thinking Porter is after $130,000 and he keeps telling them it is only $70,000. However, I honestly don’t like how the director’s cut ends as opposed to the theatrical version. True, the theatrical ending was a little more over the top but it actually felt like it resolved things a little more completely than the director’s cut ending did. The special effects mostly revolved around the fights and gun play but they were very well done, though a bit over the top at times. A bit dark and violent, but a good movie to watch.
Rating: 4 out of 5