I'm sure that the mutants who made "Payback" read Richard Stark's "The Hunter," watched the other movie made from that book, "Point Blank," and then thought to themselves: "We have to make our movie more complicated for today's demanding audiences!" Unfortunately, doing that would have involved using one of Hollywood's most desperately scarce commodities: thinking.
The fact that this script was written with finger paints is painfully obvious from the beginning. It's a simple tale of a man named Porter (Gibson), who is trying to recover $70,000 from his partner Val (Gregg Henry), who's double-crossed Porter and used the money to buy Beanie Babies. However, events soon become so convoluted that the only way to resolve them is through ridiculous coincidences and cinematic trickery.
For starters, Porter gets two bullet holes in the back from wife Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger) and survives. It looks like some makeup guy dribbled ketchup from his lunch down Gibson's back, because they're right on his spine. The stolen money belongs to the Chinese Mafia, and the two times the Chinese show up, their plans to reclaim the money are thwarted by pure happenstance. On his way through the syndicate, Porter runs into Stegman (David Paymer) and some crooked cops (including Bill Duke), who then try to blackmail him. At one point the cops show up just as the Chinese guys are about to cut Porter's balls off. My, aren't we fortunate? Whenever the filmmakers need Porter to produce a particular item, it miraculously appears in his hand because he's a pickpocket. How convenient.
Porter's target is the head of the syndicate, a man named Bronson (Kris Kristofferson). Porter just wants his money and assumes that because Val gave it to the syndicate the syndicate will understand why they should give it back to Porter. Surprise! They don't. The ending of the film is a colossal coincidence wrapped in a cinematic lie, although the Muppets were a nice touch. Ultimately I can only guess that the studio, and probably Gibson himself, didn't want the audience to take this "Gibson as bad guy" thing seriously enough to jeopardize Gibson's return role in either "Lethal Weapon 34" or "Bird on a Wire 2."
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