Maverick/Payback

Another double bill of movies for you this week. This time it’s a Mel Gibson two-for-one with Maverick and Payback.

Maverick was one of those films that just couldn’t fail. Based on the old TV series starring James Garner (who also appears in this film) Gibson plays a wise cracking card sharp trying to gamble his way to a fortune in the old west. Pretty standard stuff so far. The thing that makes this film stand out is the unique and detailed list of characters, and the A list celebs who play them. You’ve got Jodie Foster as the beautiful but completely untrustworthy Mc Bransford, James Coburn as Commodore Duvall, Alfred Molina as Angel (the baddie), and Graham Greene as Joseph the Indian Chief. Hell there’s even Danny Glover doing a comic cameo as a bank robber. It’s a whole package.

No surprise when I found it it was written by the very talented William Goldman. You may not know the name but you’ll know his movies – Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives, The Great Waldo Pepper, All The President’s Men, Marathon Man, A Bridge Too Far, The Princess Bride – the list is endless. He’s forgotten more about writing good movies than most of us will ever learn.

(Side note: If you want a good read I recommend his Hollywood ‘expose’ – Adventures In The Screen Trade.)

Since I’ve already let the cat out of the bag, how about Danny Glover’s cameo to whet your appetite.

Next up we have Payback, an absolute gem of a noir thriller.

Based on the novels of Richard Stark, Payback is the story of Porter, professional thief and total hard case, who’s out to get revenge on his ex-partner and ex-wife who double cross him after a job, and to get his share of the money back $70,000. But with cops on his tail, triads out for some payback of their own, and a criminal organisation called The Outfit to contend with, it’s not going to be as easy as he’d hoped.

The film dances a fine line between funny and nasty, and Gibson plays the dark comedy aspect beautifully. Everything that happens is simple, to the point, intricate, yet easy to understand, as Porter plays all sides off against each other and tries desperately to somehow come through the other end (with his money).

The film is based on the first one of a series of novels, and though it diverges from the text quite a bit (to the film’s benefit, I might add), if you like the movie I can recommend the books. Porter, or Parker as he’s known in the books, is even more hard ass, even more devious, and even more punishing in the books than the movie, and you love him for it. Certainly one of the best characters I’ve ever come across. Try him out, I think you’ll like him too.

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