Sunday, June 29, 2008

Me Mini Movie Reviews: Payback (Director's Cut)

The other night after getting home from work, I couldn't sleep so I threw in a DVD and watched a movie. I finally got around to seeing the Mel Gibson movie Payback: Straight Up, The Director's Cut. Whenever I have a choice, I always seek out the Director's Cut of a movie, even though I figured this would be like most director cut movies where there's a scene or two thrown in and a bit longer but basically the same movie, just with more. Well, this one was different. This is a true Director's Cut - it is an entirely different movie. And it's good.

The premise is based on the book Hunter by Donald E. Westlake, which was also the basis of the 70's Lee Marvin classic Point Blank (which I haven't seen yet, but is high on my list). One man, hard-boiled Porter (played by Mel Gibson) walks back into town and the lives of a few on an unrelenting quest to retrieve what was his - $70,000. He is not a hero, in fact he's as vicious as any of the assorted criminals and lowlifes that populate the movie, but the viewer is able to be drawn into his mission and to even cheer for him as he will not quit on the principle of the thing. Of course there's a woman and a past that complicates things, but he will not be deterred as he works his way up the food chain to the final throw-down. Will he make it? Will he succeed? It's a great ride to find out.

The movie plays like something out of the 70's with 90's surroundings, and it works. The cinematography is spot on, and no shaky cam exists. We get long shots and walking into frame shots that again hark back to older movies. All the actors do excellent work as they portray the unique characters that make up this criminal world, with Gibson showing a darker side to a character than he's played in a while, before or since.

However, the big thing about this DVD is how different it is from the theatrical cut. I watched it in the theatre years ago, and own the first DVD, and enjoyed that movie a lot. It had a constant blue filter over the screen and sarcasm and dark humor in the voice over and played for some laughs along the way. It came across as more of a caper film with a slight comedic bent to it, and was a fun watch. In the director's cut here, the blue is gone - everything is clear to the eye and it helps. The voice over is completely gone, which brings it more to a film instead of watching a graphic novel. Character's moves and facial expressions tell the tale where the voice was before. It is a much darker and grittier vision of this story and there is music instead of voice over to help portray mood. Extra scenes fill in gaps in the storyline that give you a different picture of characters and a better grasp of how things played out from the first version. And then, on top of it all, the last half takes a detour and is completely different from the ending of the theatrical release. One actor/character from the theatrical cut is completely gone and is a woman instead of a man and never seen. This director's cut ending isn't just some different verbal line or character moment - it is in a different location altogether with different characters. It's day instead of night. And you really don't know how it's going to play out, even if you've seen the theatrical cut.

There's a wealth of extras on the DVD as to the making of the movie and this Director's Cut that I haven't even got through yet, but I look forward to watching it to find out how two such different movies could be made, and I wonder if the studio messed with it before going to the theatre - perhaps they felt a lighter version with more wise cracks would play better than what is essentially a straight up 70's crime noir.

In the end, I have to say that as much as I enjoyed the theatrical cut, this Director's Cut is a much better movie. More character depth and a grittier story make for something with more to it than what was initially released. If you like crime world movies, it's certainly worth your time and is a DVD release that truly deserves the Director's Cut name.

Verdict: Recommended. (Note, this DVD edition is Unrated and not for kids)

Comments on "Me Mini Movie Reviews: Payback (Director's Cut)"


Blogger The Texican said ... (June 29, 2008 7:10 AM) : 

Great review. I saw the original version, but I've not seen this one. Thanks for the review - I'll try and find it.


Blogger willow said ... (June 29, 2008 6:51 PM) : 

Nice review, Eaglewing. Not among my personal faves, but great review.


Blogger KEANAN BRAND said ... (July 01, 2008 10:08 PM) : 

I watched the original back when it first came to the rental shelves, but haven't seen the director's cut available in my tiny little town. Must look farther afield, I guess!


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