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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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I was wondering what were Sam Neil and Mel Gibson doing in 1982? Then it hit me—they were making “Attack Force Z” (1982).

During WWII “Attack force Z” was a joint Allied special forces unit designated to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia.  Predominantly Australian, Z Special Unit was a specialized reconnaissance and sabotage outfit that included British, Dutch, New Zealand, Timorese and Indonesian members, principally operating around Borneo and nearby islands and was under the direct command of General Douglas MacArthur.  This early precursor to today’s Special Forces carried out a total of 81 covert operations with soldiers inserted by parachute or submarine to provide intelligence and conduct guerrilla warfare.  The most infamous of these missions were Operation Jaywick and Operation Rimau, both of which involved raids on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbor; the latter of which resulted in the deaths of twenty-three commandos either KIA or by execution by the Japanese after capture.

While many will immediately flock to Mel Gibson’s performance in this lower budget war film, I believe the best performance is by Sam Neil—whose acting credentials are also as impressive as Gibson’s in my opinion.

Within the first five minutes of this film we see just how serious these chaps are about their mission (which is to find a crashed plane).  Led by Paul Kelly (Gibson), an inexperienced commando officer, the team secretly lands on the island and hides their kayaks.  As they venture in land, Ted ‘Kingo’ King is hit by fire from an unseen machine gun post.  King cannot be allowed to fall into enemy hands and compromise the mission under interrogation, so instead of taking him back or finding him shelter until they return to shore, his companion, D.J. Costello (Sam Neill) simply shoots him after sharing a cigarette so the mission can continue uncompromised.  The execution of one of their own doesn’t even so much as raise an eyebrow.  The four remaining men return to their search, after coming across a rice farmer and assuring him they are friends, the teams learns of the area where the plane crashed, but not after the rice farmer is also killed in order to preserve secrecy.

While following the (now dead) old man’s directions, the squad sees some Japanese soldiers leave a house and when Force Z storms in, they meet the local resistance leader Lin and his family.  Now they have a guide to lead them to the plane, but are attacked by Japanese soldiers at a Buddhist Temple.  As Force Z makes quick work of these soldiers, the bodies begin to start piling up and the Japanese Command begin to intensify the search for the parties responsible for all these dead men.

Meanwhile within sight of the plane Kelly watches as locals blow up the wreckage.  The local non-English speaking resistance leader leads them to a defecting Japanese government official Imoguchi, and he is believed to hold secrets that could end the war faster.  Only Kelly knows he must be rescued at any cost or killed.  As the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall together, Kelly must persuade his own men that Imoguchi is worth rescuing and the local resistance that it is worth fighting against their Japanese enemies.

However, as the excitement should carry the action onwards, Attack Force Z blunders mightily in the second act.  It should be building up to a thrilling climax, but instead it devolves into a tired and clichéd war romance between Law’s American commando, Jan Veitch, and a local village girl, while the script leads the rest of the group in a contrived circle to delay the final exposition and eventual showdown with the Japanese occupiers.

Featuring a couple of strong performances (especially by Neill) yet only intermittently effective, Attack Force Z has aged poorly, more so than many other war films from the same period.  It has significant technical handicap and wavering directorial conviction draws away from what should be an otherwise interesting story, leaving behind a somewhat murky film.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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