Metascore
46

Mixed or average reviews - based on 24 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 24
  2. Negative: 5 out of 24
  1. Payback has a completely different spirit from "L.A. Confidential'' -- more wild, more silly -- but it has the same attention to the fine points of plot and character.
  2. 78
    Helgeland's film positively seethes with bad vibrations; it's kicky, nasty urban sangfroid with pointy little teeth and a serious case of the angries, an existential hand grenade disguised as a heist film.
  3. 75
    There is much cleverness and ingenuity in Payback, but Mel Gibson is the key. The movie wouldn't work with an actor who was heavy on his feet, or was too sincere about the material.
  4. 75
    While there's quite a bit more graphic bloodshed and brutality here than in any of the late screen icon's vehicles, Payback is a worthy '90s successor to his kind of movie.
  5. Reviewed by: Ron Wells
    70
    Rips out at least one dimension to reduce everything to archetypal good guys and bad guys, or bad guy and worse guys.
  6. 70
    Helgeland makes a solid debut as director here, finding a new angle through which to view the Parker character, and doing so without exhausting the possibilities.
  7. Payback is a thriller so mean and degraded it carries a low-down, vicious charge. Sadism is its only real subject, and its only real life as well.
  8. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    63
    Marvin leavened his sociopathy with a hint of little boy naivete or innocence -- Gibson is merely a frequently funny thug. {5 February 1999, Life, p. 11E]
  9. 60
    Helgeland strips the material back to its pulp origins and overlays it with a patina of glib motifs familiar to devotees of Hollywood’s 1970s renaissance.
  10. That script – co-written by Terry Hayes and director Brian Helgeland – is almost too noir for its own good at times, but Gibson somehow manages to pull its implausibility off.
  11. 50
    Payback is a brutally entertaining crime drama that should have been a little more brutal and a little less entertaining.
  12. In the last third, Payback turns into a joke.
  13. Reviewed by: Jeff Giles
    50
    Payback may not always be P.C., but it's not interested in making friends, anyway. Just killing enemies.
  14. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    50
    The only moments of conviction come from an Asian-American dominatrix called Pearl (Lucy Liu), who brings far more glee to the task of beating people up than the picture's star or director. If the audience could have half as much fun as Pearl is having, Payback would be a kick.
  15. Reviewed by: Emanuel Levy
    50
    Not an embarrassment, but it's not distinguished, either.
  16. 40
    It careens from coarse comedy to smart-ass stylization to vicious violence without ever becoming convincing on any level.
  17. 40
    Consider that in “Point Blank,” Lee Marvin walks through the film with the look of a man who's lost his soul. You can see it in his eyes. Look in Gibson's eyes in this one and you'll see soullessness, but it doesn't seem to come from anywhere within his character.
  18. Has the makings of that rarest of ventures, an adaptation that is true to the spirit of the original as well as its own time and place. But as Payback wends its way toward its conclusion, its promise dissipates and its pleasures wane.
  19. 40
    The comic timing and Gibson's mugging are skillful, but the movie fulfills expectations of plot twists and ironic atmosphere only after having made clear that it won't be offering much else.
  20. The idea may sound like fun, but the movie isn't. It's a travesty of a picture that's a disgrace to the memory of the great film from which it's remade. [5 February 1999, Friday, po.A]
  21. An interesting cast is wasted in this misanthropic thriller.
  22. So it's hard to know who gets the blame for Payback. I say we cut Mel some slack and put the hex on Helgeland.
  23. What one word might best describe Payback? How about "loathsome"?
  24. We're supposed to adore Gibson's sang-froid and his toughness, but everything, a few good lines aside, is so witless and monotonous it becomes numbing.
User Score
7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 30 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 8
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 8
  3. Negative: 2 out of 8
  1. Sep 24, 2012
    7
    Never a classic, Payback is just a nice mix of black comedy and action which does it's job well. It includes certain noir elements, such as a grey layering to the visuals and horn layden soundtrack, that help make it different and refreshing enough to stand out, and you also never know quite what to expect throughout the film either. Not one to have at the top of the viewing list, but one that's worthy of your time. Full Review »