Jan 032012

Payback Movie Poster

My wife hates “Payback,” which released in 1999 and starred Mel Gibson. And when I say “hate,” in this case it is not too strong a word. I really think she would rather go to the dentist than watch it, and she hates going to the dentist more than most people. That’s how much she hates “Payback.”

Today, though, I was reminded of why I love it. The kids are watching an episode of “Power Rangers R.P.M.,” and a new character was just introduced. You’ve seen this character a hundred times before- the brooding ‘lone wolf’ bad boy who reluctantly joins the team and becomes a hero. It’s a common archetype because it works so well; we love heroes who used to be scoundrels, such as Han Solo, who may have been more popular than boy scout Luke Skywalker. We like our good guys, but we like them more when they¬†are a little bad.

The reason I love “Payback” is because Mel Gibson’s character is a bad guy who stays bad. Time after time he has the chance to be nice, to do the right thing, and he keeps on being a bad guy. On and on it goes until finally you realize “Huh. He really is a jerk.” It’s so refreshing and fun to watch that I can’t understand anyone not liking in. In fact, I’m going to see if it’s on Netflix streaming. I’m tired to “bad good guys.” I’m in the mood for a real bad guy.


  1. Bill Coffin says:

    I think one of the reason why characters like Mel’s in this movie are so compelling is that as a function of their villainy, they tend to live without regret. For the rest of us, struggling to do right in a world where the right path is not always clear, or where our own weakness confounds our wish to do good, regret comes with the territory. While we might not all fantasize about the things Mel does in this flick I am certain that many of us certainly fantasize the way in which he moves through the world, getting what he wants, and until that awful hammer scene, not really having to pay for it. After all, there is a reason why, in these movies, we never see the characters in jail.

  2. Scott Seeke says:

    While I am thankful for a conscience, Bill, the thought of a life without regret is certainly appealing.