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Payback (1999) and Payback the Director’s Cut (2006)—the same movie but not even close. A study in how the editing of a film can completely change it.

Payback is a 1999 American neo-noir crime film written and directed by Brian Helgeland in his directorial debut, and stars Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, and David Paymer.  But in 2006, Helgeland released his director’s cut that hardly resembles the 1999 theatrical version.  The “original” Payback starts off with Mel Gibson (Porter—we don’t know if it is his first or last name) narrating his current predicament; that is, being operated on by some back alley surgeon who takes two bullets out of his back and uses a bottle of booze to sterilize the wound.   Porter’s narration begins to tell a story of crime and betrayal showing that there is truly no honor among thieves.

 

Porter and another criminal named Val Resnik hit a Triad gang for $140,000.00.  They made a clean get away and while they were dividing up the money, Porter’s wife shoots him in the back allowing Resnik to take the entire heist so he can buy his way back into an all-powerful organized crime outfit—for some unknown reason Resnick owed this group $130,000.00 and once paid he was allowed back in.  While Porter is writhing in agony after his wife shot him, Resnick walks up to him and produces a picture of Porter with another woman which was enough to convince his wife to betray and try to kill him.  Both Resnik and the wife leave him for dead.

Somehow Porter makes it to the back-alley surgeon and spends 5 months recovering from his wounds. When he is able Porter sets out to collect his ½ of the heist that was originally agreed upon by the partners in crime.  The rest of the film is Porter tracking down Resnik, dealing with corrupt cops and a well-organized criminal enterprise in order to get his $70,000.00.  Porter is very clever and outwits anyone that stands in his way. Including putting away two very corrupt cops, killing numerous foot soldiers of the “outfit” as well as the enterprises’ underboss and of course Resnick.  Naturally after some grueling fighting and torture Porter recovers his money and gets away with Rosie, a hooker he used to drive for and who helped him in his quest for the cash.

The 1999 theatrical version did well at the box office and world wide grossed approximately $160,000,000.00.   Helgeland went on to make a name for himself, writing and directing such films as LA Confidential, Man on Fire and Robin Hood.  His one big mistake is a film previously reviewed by the JPFmovies staff The Postman—winner of a Golden Raspberry award because it just sucked.

Then in 2006, Helgeland releases Payback Straight Up The Directors Cut.  The new release is materially different than the theatrical version and in the eyes of the JPFmovies staff much better.  The Directors Cut is much darker involving an unappealing hero, little humor, some graphic scenes including one where he beats the shit out of his wife and no neat, happy ending but instead a dead dog (named Porter).  It is a totally different film, gritty edgy and no one in the story is a “good guy.”  But when you think about it, Helgeland was right from an economic point of view to release the 1999 version to the public.  The theatrical version is funnier, easier accessible and more spectacular most of the shots show Porter with a light facial expression, almost smirking, and of course the dog survives.  Unfortunately, much more appealing to a wider audience which translated into $160,000,000.00.

The Director’s Cut is a much better film, but for narrower, hardcore audience and would not have made nearly as much money.  Payback is yet another example of how Hollywood has turned the art of film into nothing more than dollars and cents. JPFmovies recommends that you watch both versions of the film if for no other reason than to see just how powerful editing can be.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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JPFmovie reviewer at large TV reviews the biggest box office flop in history: The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

As everyone know we here at JPFmovies love our guest reviewers.  So when TV wanted to take a look at the worst financial investment Holly Wood has ever made who were we to say no?

Over continued bouts of, “where did the 100 million dollars go!” If it weren’t for the badly glued together editing job which encumbers the fact that the acting simply gets worse from one scene to the next.  One might think cameos by Alec Baldwin and John Cleese would help, but served only to further aggravate and annoy the viewer.  One thing is for sure, few movie productions cost $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars) and then sit on a shelf for two years while, assuredly the Studio Castle Rock Entertainment co founders Martin Shafer and Rob Reiner must have yelled “where did the 100 million dollars go!”

“Plot”

By the end of the 21st century, mankind has established itself on the Moon and also established lunar colonies, which have expanded into large cities, such as Moon Beach and Little America. Human cloning is now common, body modification is now.  In 2080, there is a colony on the Moon called Little America. Eddie Murphy plays a retired smuggler called Pluto Nash (Eddie Murphy), who just out of prison, buys a nightclub.  Naturally there would be no “Adventures” if Pluto simply retired into that goodnight.  A plot enhancement overlooked by Director Ron Underwood.

After facing down two Moon Mobsters Gino (Burt Young) and Larry (Lillo Brancato), over his friend and previous owner.  Pluto rebuilds the club and establishes it as “Club Pluto.” In the next seven years, Club Pluto is a hit.  In 2087, Pluto is approached by a young woman named Dina Lake (Rosario Dawson), who has become stranded on the Moon and desires to earn some money by which to pay for transport back to Earth to Salt Lake City. Because her father “Nicky Sticks” was a friend of Pluto’s, she seeks help from Pluto, offering her skills as a singer. Pluto instead gives her a job as a server at his club and allows her to remain inside to sleep after closing.

 

its nightly closure to the public. During the same night, Pluto is roughed up by Mogan (Joe Pantoliano) and Kelp (Victor Varnado), soldiers of a mysterious gangster called Rex Crater. They tell Pluto that Rex wants to buy Club Pluto and convert it into a gambling casino. Pluto has none of it.

In the plot twist that “nobody saw coming” Rex Crater’s soldiers destroy the club. “Fortunately” Pluto, Dina, and Bruno escape.  Having Pluto and Dina simply die in the mob hit was another plot enhancement overlooked by Director Ron Underwood.

With the club in shambles, Pluto decides to investigate Rex Crater, and learns that Rex Crater has never seen outside of a penthouse in the city of Moon Beach, and that he was involved with a genetic engineer called Runa Pendankin, who specialized in human cloning before her mysterious death.

In what has to easily be the most atrocious scene in modern cinematography the viewing audience is subjected to Pluto and Dina’s to the Cosmetic Surgery Store.  Therein the viewing audience is tormented with “jokes” regarding Pluto and Dina’s ever shifting body sizes and looks, potentially theirs for the right price.

Pluto and Dina’s body morph scene that completely eviscerates the hope of a discernible plot.  Pluto and Dina could have had a terrible genetic mutation go wrong and then attack the Moon. That’s another plot enhancement overlooked by Director Ron Underwood.

In their continued investigation Pluto and Dina meet Pluto’s mother Flura Nash (Pam Grier), who comes there, and has robot Bruno recharged in his room. They are then ambushed by Rex Crater’s assassins, who have tracked them to their hotel.

After some suspense with Pam Grier and the introduction of Robot Bruno Pluto and Dina then hijack a limo with a holographic chauffeur named James (John Cleese).  Amazingly, John Cleese was not funny at all in what was supposed to be a zany slapstick scene, simply became another excuse to freshen my drink, this time with a heavy pour of gin.  I was beginning to understand why the British Royal Expeditionary Force issued rum rations before combat.  For Chrissake, there was another half of a movie left to watch.  After a groaned look from J.P., the snoring began and I knew I was in no man’s land alone.  Swig of Gin indeed!

Pluto takes Dina and Robot Bruno to an old refuge outside of the colonies of his from his smuggling days.

At the hideout Pluto searches online for information regarding any Earth criminal with the initials “WZW.” When this yields nothing, Dina suggests that the initials are in fact “MZM,” having been seen upside-down by Mona Zimmer. Pluto searches for “MZM” and discovers a criminal called Michael Zoroaster Marucci (Alec Baldwin). The cameo of Alec Baldwin is perhaps the only watchable minute and a half of this movie. Was this a plot enhancement not overlooked by Director Ron Underwood?

Finally, Pluto suspects that Michael Marucci and Rex Crater are one and the same.  The genius of Pluto Nash and his keen analytical mind are impressive and Pluto and Co. infiltrate Rex Crater’s casino/hotel. Robot Bruno romances a robot slot machine whose lever he accidentally breaks. When Robot Bruno is taken away by security, Pluto sends Dina to pay for the damages and get Bruno out.

Eventually Pluto makes it to the office of Rex Crater.  There Pluto Nash discovers his nemesis, himself.  Pluto Nash has been cloned.

Pluto vs. Pluto-Rex chicanery ensues.  After several painful attempts at witticisms and apparently having forfeited a plot long ago. Pluto Rex kills Mogan and Kelp for their incompetence. Pluto Rex and Pluto then fight while the others are uncertain which is which. Pluto finally defeats Pluto Rex.

The movie ends with the heroes celebrating in the rebuilt Club Pluto with Nash as the owner.

“Where did the 100 million dollars go!”

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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