Torture has made its way into the national fabric.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

Payback is not only a terrible movie, it is absolutely irresponsible. We understand now that, to whatever degree we might chose to admit, the violent headlines of the evening news are fueled in part by movie and television violence that are the staples of the indolent and criminally inclined. Violence as entertainment has infected our popular culture, and the poison has spread. Let's look at Payback.

Porter (Mel Gibson) and Val (Gregg Henry) pull off a successful heist, after which Val steals both Porter's share of the loot and his wife, who shoots Porter in the back and leaves him for dead. Porter recovers, sets his jaw, and fastens on revenge. The paltry $70,000 figure that Porter seeks to recover as his share establishes his crusade as one of principle, not greed. Porter, who beats people senseless every few minutes, is now the good guy, and we are to root for the hero as he exacts his pound of flesh. His honorable end now justifies the means. It's the means that are the problem. Porter and ex-partner Val, who happens to be a sadist, compete in the brutality sweepstakes. You will see a ring ripped from a nose, a graphic drug OD, prolonged S & M sex between Val and a Chinese prostitute, a hand broken by a slammed trap door, a near castration, a shot in the face, the systematic breaking of one toe after another with a hammer, and the violation of a large number of bodies. And the whole thing is drenched in blood.

Mel Gibson, Kris Kristofferson, William Devane, and James Coburn should be ashamed of themselves for being part of this. Paramount should be ashamed for distributing it, and Icon, Mr. Gibson's own production company, should hang its head for producing this advanced primer on cruelty.

Why do they feel no responsibility, no accountability, for the worldwide influence of their product? At the very least they are inviting regulation and censorship as the country wakes up to the degree that crime follows entertainment. The industry must police itself. But who is telling them that? Not ticket buyers who flock to see the mayhem, not critics who review this movie as a typical Mel Gibson caper without discussing the carnage, not the silent citizenry who seem not to understand that the violence that surrounds them is caused in part by Hollywood and New York.

Torture has made its way into the national fabric. Unspeakable cases in Wyoming, Texas, and New Jersey have horrified the country in recent months. Cause and effect cannot be proven or measured, but the brutality seeps into the collective consciousness until, suddenly, it becomes an option for angry people. Censorship is both unconstitutional and unnecessary. Outrage is the only answer. We can't outlaw hate, but we do not have to tolerate it. If we boycott movies like this, then Hollywood will be forced to use its otherwise magical tools of illusion to lead us in another direction.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 502
Studio : Paramount
Rating : R
Running time : 1h50m

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