A career criminal is betrayed by his partner and his
wife, but returns to get his piece of their big score.
Payback: Straight Up (2006)
Written and Directed by Brian Helgeland
Starring Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, David Paymer,
Bill Duke, Jack Conley, Lucy Liu, Deborah Kara Unger,
Sally Kellerman, James Coburn, John Glover, William Devane
Director's Cut of 1999's Payback
Based on the novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake
Payback: Straight Up is the 2006 director's cut of Brian Helgeland's 1999 crime thriller Payback. Having not yet seen the original version, I have heard there are considerable differences. So many, in fact, that they are essentially two different movies. I hope one day to watch the original, but it is surprisingly hard to find. But I digress. The director's cut of the film isn't terrible, but it is painfully generic. Despite a strong and committed performance from Mel Gibson, there is very little here to write home about.
Meet Porter (Gibson). As the opening credits go out of their way to inform you, he's a prick. He steals from the homeless, he commits credit card fraud, he pawns stolen watches, and he has no problem punching women in the face. And he's our hero, so to compensate, the villain Val (Henry) is a sadomasochist and a racist. It's a pretty pessimistic movie. Val cheats Porter out of $70,000 and Porter's wife (Unger) shoots Porter in the back. But Porter survives, and is hunting Val for revenge and his share of the money. Porter's revenge brings him up against some nameless crime syndicate run by a shadow voice named Bronson (Kellerman), who we never meet. Apart from some good kills and one-liners, nothing significant really happens, story-wise.
We get to see a young Lucy Liu play a dominatrix, so I guess we can chalk that one in the plus column. But like I said, the director's cut of Payback is pretty by-the-numbers and forgettable. The 90's saw a plethora of similar action thrillers, and some of them stood out. Maybe the theatrical cut is the superior one in this case. I guess I'll have to find out.