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I knew that PAYBACK ($30) was going to be a lot darker than the usual Mel Gibson film, however I wasn't expecting this revenge tale to have a satiric edge that left me laughing at the mayhem. In PAYBACK, Gibson plays a career criminal named Porter. As the film opens, Porter finds himself double-crossed by the partner whom he just helped to steal $140,000.00. Five months after being shot in the back and left for dead, Porter comes back with a vengeance and is determined to retrieve his $70,000.00. Of course, getting his money is a lot easier said than done. Unfortunately, Porter's former partner has already used the entire sum to purchase himself a prominent position within the underworld syndicate. Now even though the money appears gone, Porter proves to be just crazy enough to take on the entire underworld organization to get back his $70,000.00. This, of course, leads to plenty of violence and death, as well as the occasional destruction of personal property.

While PAYBACK is tinged with irony and wonderful black comic moments, this is not a typical Mel Gibson movie by any means. Gibson doesn't wear the white hat in this film. Porter really is a bad guy, willing to beat, kidnap or kill anyone standing between him and his money. Of course, it's refreshing to see Mel Gibson break away from type casting and play a character with few redeeming qualities. Not only is this change of character refreshing, Gibson is quite good at playing the bad guy, making this one of his best performances. The screenplay Brian Helgeland and Terry Hayes is very well written, offering numerous character moments, not only for Gibson, but for the rest of the cast as well. Helgeland's direction is sharp, offering swift pacing, as well as a making the most of the story's ironic twists. In addition to Gibson, the top notch cast of PAYBACK also features Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, Deborah Unger, David Paymer, Bill Duke, Jack Conley, William Devane, Kris Kristofferson, John Glover, Lucy Alexis Liu and an uncredited bit of genius from James Coburn.

Paramount Home Entertainment has done an excellent job of transcribing PAYBACK to DVD. PAYBACK has been given a first rate 16:9 enhanced transfer that fully restores the film's 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The image is crisp and highly detailed, with even the darker sequences rendering faithfully. Contrast is exaggerated and the film's colors have been purposely desaturated. This stylistic approach works to the film's advantage, giving PAYBACK an edgy, film noir quality. After seeing the featurette, which offers a few clips from PAYBACK with fully saturated color, I can say that the filmmakers made the correct choice for the presentation of this film. The desaturated colors are complemented by the perfectly rendered blacks, which serve to enhance the film's noir-ish atmosphere. Competent DVD authoring disguised all traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack sports an impressive mix that utilizes the discrete nature of the format admirably. Effects effortlessly pan around the viewer, whether it is across the forward soundstage or into the split surround channels. Gunfire and explosions are effectively reproduced, thanks to the solid bass channel. Dialogue is very clean and always intelligible, plus the actor's voices reproduce with a natural resonance. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also available on the disc, as are English subtitles.

The interactive menus are rather basic, supplying access to the scene selection and set-up features. A Behind-The-Scenes featurette and two theatrical trailers are provided as supplement; these are accessible through the interactive menus.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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