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Payback (I) (1999)

R  |   |  Action, Crime, Drama  |  5 February 1999 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 107,231 users   Metascore: 46/100
Reviews: 393 user | 144 critic | 24 from Metacritic.com

Porter is shot by his wife and best friend and is left to die. When he survives he plots revenge.



(novel) (as Richard Stark) , (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pearl (as Lucy Alexis Liu)
Mark Alfa ...
Johnny's Friend #2
Michael, Bartender #1
Len Bajenski ...
Fairfax Bodyguard #1


Porter is bad, but his neighbours are worse. Street-wise and tough, an ex-marine, he is betrayed by a one-time partner, and shot in the back by his junkie wife. He survives and returns, looking to recover his share from the robbery of an Asian crime gang. The money has passed into the hands of "the Outfit", a slick gangster organisation that runs the city. He has to make his way through a world populated by heroin dealers, prostitutes, sado-masochists, gunmen and crooked cops, a place where torture is a way of life. His only friend is a former employer, a prostitute, and her loyalty is in question, given she now works for the Outfit. He makes good early progress, but then falls into the hands of Fairfax, the crime boss. Written by Kwah-LeBaire

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


No More Mr. Nice Guy See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence, language, and drug and sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

5 February 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Porter  »

Box Office


$50,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$21,221,526 (USA) (5 February 1999)


$81,517,441 (USA) (9 July 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Mel Gibson and James Coburn; and one Oscar nominee: David Paymer. See more »


When Porter is tied to the chair towards the end of the movie and he is being beaten by Fairfax's thugs there are several shots from behind that show Porter's shoes are on and that his legs are not tied. When Bronson comes and starts to question him these same shots are shown. Before they hit him with the hammer his shoes have been removed and legs tied with no one ever doing this to him. See more »


[first lines]
Porter: [voiceover] GSW: that's what the hospitals call it: gunshot wound. Doctor has to report it to the police. That makes it hard for guys in my line to get what I call, quality health care.
See more »


Referenced in Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001) See more »


Written by Luis Demetrio and Pablo Beltrán Ruiz, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel
Performed by Dean Martin
Courtesy of Capitol Records
under License from EMI Music Special Markets
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

nasty. twisted. violent. Excellent.
7 May 1999 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

How much is $70,000 worth to you? I'm sure that right now 70 grand would come in real handy. But is it worth numerous beatings, getting shot, being run over and having your toes mashed by a hammer? It is to Porter.

I'm sure you're aware of the plot to this film (vengence, old flames and mucho violence) but that barely scratches the surface of this brilliant little noir. Whilst the story is basic the nuts and bolts used to make it are complex, twisting and not quite what you expect. For a start there are the characters. No good guys. Not one. Porter is a criminal. He's not even a particularly nice one. He's a killer, a thief, a thug, a gambler, a cheater, a liar and I bet he doesn't even pay his taxes. Likewise everybody else. Sadists, murderers, corrupt cops, drug dealers, gang members, mobsters, hookers. They're all here in their various shades of bad.

The success of this film relies on two people: Gibson and screenwriter/director Brian Helgeland. With the lead gleefully playing against his nice guy image Porter is as nasty as they come but still retains such charm and Gibsons trademark grin that not for one moment do you dislike him. He's cool in a way that Bruce Willis' Jackal never was. He quietly slipped across continents with hi-tech equipment in various guises waiting for his moment. Porter just walks into the hoods house with nothing but a revolver and asks for his money back. A lot of the comments I've read say that Porter is mean. He isn't. He'll just do what it takes to get his money back. He has nothing to loose so why not do it anyway. Porter is who Riggs would be if he'd never met Murtaugh. Out of control, against massive odds but just crazy enough not to give a damn.

Helgeland shows real talent as a director in his first time outing. As a scriptwriter he's always been in the upper classes with a talent for mixing unrepentant violence with uneasy humour. Here he shows he can tell a damn good story along with writing it. Nothing happens the way it's supposed to. We're used to good guys threatening to kill but always really bluffing. Porter isn't. He'll ask for what he wants, he doesn't get it, BANG, you're dead. People die at the wrong time too. Characters that are supposed to last until the end die in the middle while minors that only just arrive survive only to get whacked by the finish anyway. The motivation is all wrong as well. 70,000 is chump change to these people. The mobsters are wearing suits worth more than that. But Porter wants that and nothing more. He spends most of the film correcting people who think he's after more.

While based on the same source material as Point Blank, Payback is nothing like it stylistically. The first used understated violence. Payback goes for the jugular and rips it out with copious amounts of rheseus negative. It's hard to see this film working without this combo of star and director. If you had, say Sylvester Stallone or Nicolas Cage and Richard Donner or Joel Schumacher in charge you'd just have a bunch of nasty people doing nasty things with none of the ghoulishly comic touches that make Porter cool. Be thankful it's the combination it is and then go and see it. If you like thrillers you'll love this.

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