mins ‘55“ e 33.!
An entertainingly erratic rehash of 1967's Point Blank, Payback finds Mel Gibson good, if unlikely, in the Lee Marvin tough guy role.
Gibson, in a reversal of his Lethal Weapon anti-hero, plays hard-as- nails criminal Porter who, along with his partner Resnick (Gregg Henry), cleans out some Chinese goons. After the heist, however, Resnick shoots him and leaves him for dead, grabbing Porter's $70,000 share and his wife Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger), their getaway driver.
Porter survives and, meaner than ever, comes after his money, but Resnick has already used the cash to buy his way into a crime syndicate. Despite this - and the added attentions of two bent cops, the Chinese gang and a sado-masochistic dominatrix — Porter keeps on coming. He does have one friend, though, in the form of hooker Rosie (Maria Bello).
lt’s unfair to say Gibson is miscast, since Payback is hardly a straight remake of Point Blank; rather, the two films are based on the same book, The Hunter by Richard Stark. John Boorman’s stylish 605 version was sleek and serious, with Lee Marvin’s Walker character bulldozing
his way through the echelons of the syndicate via the most streamlined of plots. Any humour that arose did so
purely from his sheer relentlessness.
Brian Hegeland’s impressive directorial debut, while perhaps even more cynical, turns much more to comedy. Gibson is always going to be too pretty to match Marvin, so although his character is invested with the same unnerving gall, he looks more vulnerable when he is plunged into situations beyond his control.
Hegeland’s film works partly as a send-up and partly as an homage to Point Blank. There's affected irony in
Return of the living dead: Mel Gibson in Payback
Porter’s absurdly gravelled voiceover, in the perversely masochistic digs at all this machismo, and in the frequent
jibes about the.S70,000 (peanuts in this context). But
there is also a definite attempt to recall something of the gritty, urban feel of Point Blank, albeit in a different (and vaguer) time and setting.
Aside from all that, it's a romp and a half for Gibson, with neat star turns from James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson slung in, and a slippery, truly enjoyable climax, (John MacKenzie)
:fié Genera/ release from Fri 26 Mar
“.s I‘. 2
Gods And Monsters (15) 115 mins r-z- 2r:
This movmg filiri - IoVingly crafted by writer-director Bill Condon —- follows the last days of English-born filmmaker James Whale, director of the 1931 Frankenstein and its iconic sequel, Bride 0/ Frankenstein.
In 1957, the largely forgotten Whale is enJOying a comfortable retirement in the Hollywood suburbs, With only his stern but fiercely loyal housekeeper,
24 THE “ST 18 Mar-i Apr l999
LA confidential: Brendan Fraser, lan Mcltellen and Lynne Redgrave in
Gods And Monsters
Hannah (Lynn Redgrave), for toiiipany Virtually a recluse, he is suffeiing from the side effects of a recent stroke 'electrical stornis' iii his brain that cause him to ViVidly re-live episodes from his past life. His tough childhood in Dudley and the horror of World War | trenches give us an insight into Whale's troubled childhood and formative influences
These episodes increase in extremity after Whale strikes up a tentative friendship With his handsome
gardener, Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraseri, an ex-tvlarir‘e who hates faggots as much as the next red- blooded male Boone's ex-girlfriend, baiinaid Betty (Lolita Daudowch), gives him a hard time about getting involved with a rich old homo who made a few corny horror mOVies, but Boone senses something else When Whale asks if he can paint Boone, then wheedles him into removuig his shirt, it does seem as if he is intent on seduction, pure simple
But as the relationship develops, we sense more complex motives, including a powerful, underlying death Wish. Witness Whale's response to Boone’s suggestion that the director is Just trying to get into his pants ‘Nonsense,’ he states calmly, 'I know that a real man like you would break my neck if I so much as laid a hand on you.’ You don't have to be a genius to see the parallels with Doctor Frankenstein and his iiionstei' A fine piece of story- telling, and a fitting tribute to one of the all—time greats of horror filiiiiiiaking lNlQOI Floyd)
v.3 G/asgow Fi/rii Theatre from Fri 26 Mar Edinburgh Fi/rnhouse from Fri 2 Apr See preview
American History X (18) 117 mins a a s: ‘k'
A fierce, uncompromismg study of racism amongst white working-class youths, American History X is as provocative as it is Visually arresting. Taking a broader View of skinhead neo— Nazism than the controversial Australian film Romper Stomper, David McKenna's script pulls no punches in its depiction of racist Violence, but explores more fully the origins of bigoted attitudes that inform it. McKenna's View is that racism begins at home, although the seeds sown there are fertilised by economic hardship, social exclusion and frustration with The System.
On the eve of his older brother Derek’s release from prison for the cold-blooded killing of three black youths, teenager Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong) hands in a homework aSSIgnment on Mein Kampf. Danny’s horrified black school principal instigates a personal study programme entitled American History X: Danny's first assignment is to chronicle the events leading up to his brother's incarceration.
Since Danny idolises Derek (Edward Norton), what we see in flashback is a naive, idealised portrait, starting with the murder of their fireman father and culminating in Derek's leadership of a white raCist gang. So far so obvious; but when Derek emerges from prison a changed and cliastened man, and tries to put his neo-NaZi past behind him, Danny feels betrayed, beWildered and lost.
Curiously, British commerCials director Tony Kaye disowned this cut of the film followmg changes made to it by Edward Norton. Yet the end result is not only a powerful indictment of racism, but also one that speaks eloquently to its target audience in a flashy, pop promo-derived Visual language.
Although the flashback scenes in which the boys' father expounds his common or garden raClSl Views are a little trite, the film as a whole balances its conVincingly incendiary Violence With a more reflective, revealing look at home-grown raCist attitudes. Kaye’s bleached-out, hyper-real Visuals have an extraordinary kinetic energy, and are lent dramatic weight by Norton’s brave, terrifyineg charismatic performance. (Nigel Floyd)
The white stuff: Edward Norton and Fairuza Balk in American History X
STAR RATINGS :sr s a 6*: * Unmissable a a if k» Very good as ‘5? s» Worth a shot st it Below average at You've been warned