Payback: Straight Up (2007) - The Director's Cut

Genre(s): Crime / Drama
Paramount || Unrated - 90 minutes - $19.99 || April 10, 2007
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2007-04-09

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Brian Helgeland
Writer(s): Richard Stark (novel, 'The Hunter'); Brian Helgeland (screenplay)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, David Paymer, Deborah Kara Unger, Bill Duke, William Devane, Lucy Liu

Theatrical Release Date: NA

Supplemental Material:
  • Writer/Director Commentary
  • Paybacks are a Bitch: On Location in Chicago
  • Paybacks are a Bitch: On Location in Los Angeles
  • Same Story, Different Movie - Creating PAYBACK: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT
  • The Hunter: A Conversation with Author Donald E. Westlake

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.


During the production of Payback, director Brian Helgeland was replaced due to creative conflicts with producer Mel Gibson and thus Helgeland’s vision changed with the addition of a third act. Now, 8 years later, that vision can come to the surface as Helgeland chopped out the third act and added other scenes never seen before. Also gone is the bleach process that gave the film a blue color to it. When removing the third act, also rids the great screen presence of Kris Kristofferson who’s replaced by merely a voice on the phone of a woman (never seen).

The story finds Porter (Gibson) wandering the streets. When we first meet him, Porter is one of the biggest SOBs you would ever meet. He takes money from a homeless beggar, pennies from server’s tips and steals from someone on the street to get his identity (and pay for a new suit and a good meal). Unlike the theatrical version, we don’t know why he’s doing this, where he’s come from and, as the story unfolds further, why he’s dead set on finding Val Resnick (Henry), a low-life working with an organization known only as “The Outfit”.

This version, known as Payback: Straight Up, is certainly has a quicker pace and gets to the meat of the story, but, like the original, I had a real hard time getting into it. Both versions have moments like Porter’s confrontation with Val, of course it’s always nice having Lucy Liu in the scene, so... In any case, Payback is one of the movies that never truly come together.

It’s been a couple years since I last saw the theatrical version, but the differences between the two are mind-blowing given the state of DVDs and the numerous (so-called) unrated director’s cuts. When something gets that tag, it seems only a miniscule amount of footage gets added back in and the story itself does not change. Outside of Payback: Straight Up, the only other release that made a true difference for me was the Daredevil: Director’s Cut. So for the fact that Helgeland and Paramount put so much effort getting this released, I give ‘em major kudos.

This director’s cut is certainly more undeviating, making the movie more dramatic as Helgeland intended, yet at the same time, I had little to nothing invested in story or characters.


Writer/Director Commentary - Brian Helgeland flies solo for the 90-minute run time providing various bits of information concerning this cut, the changes made and why this is his vision of Payback. It’s a fine track and Helgeland keeps the chatter lively enough so it never gets dreary or tiresome.

Paybacks Are a Bitch (48:54) - This featurette, split into two parts, “On Location in Chicago” and “On Location in Los Angeles”, primarily contains behind-the-scenes footage on the set intermixed with new interviews (Mel Gibson, Brian Helgeland, Deborah Kara Unger, Maria Bello) and archive ones (David Paymer, Gregg Henry, et al). The two combined are quite interesting giving an inside glimpse of how the project started as well as Helgeland talking about working with Richard Donner (on Conspiracy Theory).

Same Story - Different Movie, Creating Payback: The Director’s Cut (28:08) - Easily the best feature, this featurette contains honesty rarely seen on DVD extras as participants talk about Helgeland’s departure from the project. Helgeland explains the differences in this version to that of the theatrical one and how he came to the decisions he did (removing the bleach process, restoring old footage, etc). Although it doesn’t contain the same kind of “bite” as other honest conversation as in the Alien movies, this is still a good featurette.

The Hunter: A Conversation with Author Donald E. Westlake (10:35) - A basic interview with the author of the material that Payback was based upon. He recounts the other versions of his novels that came to the big screen and how he eventually got the books off the ground...



Payback is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35) and looks (almost literally) night and day from the theatrical release. Helgeland removed the blue bleach quality, giving the film a much brighter look, and thus a different tone.

The primary audio track available is Dolby Digital 5.1 that serves its purpose just fine. The dialogue is center speaker centric with background audio making use of the other channels. You can also use the Dolby 2.0 Surround, if you like.


Payback: Straight Up is a modest improvement from the theatrical version but if you’re a complete-tist (like me) you’ll want to hold on to your old copy as the two films are completely different (not merely a scene or two added back in). The DVD, however, is a nominal step up over the previous barebones release. It’s nice to see some (albeit half-hearted) honesty from those around the controversial removal of Helgeland but at least they didn’t skim over it.