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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Payback: Director's Cut -- in HD & BD

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Apr 14, 2007.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Payback is an interesting film with a troubled past, that might give prospective viewers the idea that it should be a pass.

    That's not the case.

    Disagreements during production had final control placed in hands other than those of the director, Brian Helgeland, who is best known for his screenwriting skills (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River). Payback was his first directorial effort.

    When released in 1999, the film had a running time of 100 minutes, and overall, a decidedly cold (read: blue) look.

    Now eight years later Paramount and Icon have apparently allowed Helgeland to have the final say, at least in terms of a home video release, and the results are more than worthy of any expenditures involved.

    Gone is the cold look, replaced by gritty warmth. Gone is the 100 minute running time, replaced by a cut ten minutes shorter, but filled with a myriad of interesting deletions and additions.

    To be clear, this is not one of those ubiquitous "Director's Cuts," offered to a needy home video audience more to place another product on store shelves or play to the vanity of the fimmaker, than to accomplish anything in a cinematic way. With the large number of DCs in the marketplace, I doubt that more than a dozen have enough substantive and thoughful changes to warrant a new release.

    This one, like Sony's recent releases of Bugsy and The Natural, are true to their word.

    The Director's Cut of Payback is not simply marketing hype.

    While I don't have the original release easily available to me, from memory, the differences are huge, and the final result is a finer film.

    As an HD release, Payback is not your typical selection. It is not a glossy production with that look of a freshly waxed floor, and Paramount wasn't afraid to replicate the film with a decidedly grainy, harsh and contrasty look intact. I commend them for the decision not to sanitize the film for HD to make it "pretty."

    Because of this, some may feel that the differences between HD (or BD) and the available SD versions don't look enough dissimilar to warrant the extra few dollars to purchase HD. This would be incorrect, as the high definition versions hold a higher quality pallette, blacker blacks and an overall much more highly resolved image.

    With the slant of the story changed, characters deleted and scenes added and removed, Payback (DC) is a better film than the original release. One major change allows the audience to understand up front the basis for Porter's (Gibson) motivations. The original cut gave us a lead character with motivations that didn't become clear until well into the film.

    Payback comes to high definition video in beautiful form, and while not what many might consider a great film, it is a good film that deserves a couple of hours of your attention. As noted in an earlier piece, Paramount Home Video is not flooding the marketplace with HD releases. They are taking their time, doing their homework, and releasing product when ready.

    In the case of Payback, extras give superb background to the production, and the DC, with a commentary from director Helgeland, and a "conversation" with author Donald Westlake, who was screenwriter on The Grifters.

    Payback is available in either HD or BD. Both have been examined and both have the same high quality. While the HD release has Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, as opposed to standard Dolby Digital on the BD version, I could hear no discernable difference on the tracks for this particular film. The flavor of high definition disc purchased in this case comes down to whether one prefers blue or burgundy.

    Paramount Home Video's high definition release of Payback "Straight Up: The Director's Cut" comes Recommended on all levels. It is especially Highly Recommended for film students on all educational levels, as a comparison with the original cut will aid in the understanding of precisely how differently a film can be cut, and how those changes can totally slant a storyline and character arcs. The footage sitting in the cans at the end of a shoot is only the beginning. This film can be used as a great classroom aid.

    RAH
     
  2. ppltd

    ppltd Well-Known Member

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    I loved this film when it was first released, and this director cut is like watching a new film. The last 1/3 is completely changed.

    This new cut has found a place in my colection and I found myself enjoying the changes as much as I liked the original release. I will be keeping both my SD copy and the HD copy as they are two different films, both of which deserve a place in my collection.

    This is much akin to Alien3. The Director cut was not just a re-edit, but a complete revamping of the film (in the case of Alien3, IMHO, turned a mediocre film in to a very good film).

    As far as the quality of the HD release, both the PQ and AQ are more than up to stuff for the formats, and while there is not the pop that many to releases have, I would not expect it from a film that is this gritty. While not a lossless sound track, the DD+ track is more than servicable. Paramount has done a very good job on this release.

    Has anyone viewed the BD version yet to see how it holds up.
     
  3. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Well-Known Member

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    I saw the original release and loved it, I have it on DVD. I was surprised to learn that this DC is 10 mins shorter, anyway I got it on BD and plan to see it soon.
     
  4. Ben_Williams

    Ben_Williams Well-Known Member

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    I'm very glad to hear that this is a great director's cut... I've always enjoyed the theatrical version immensely and purchased the DC on Tuesday. Can't wait to see this!

    Thanks, Mr. Harris!
     
  5. John H Ross

    John H Ross Well-Known Member

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    It should be noted that this new DC of Payback has an entirely new music score. Chris Boardman's original effort ("inspired" by David Shire's "The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3") appears to have been jettisoned which is a shame cos I kinda liked it.
     
  6. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Well-Known Member

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    I remember what I especially liked about the original was the opening with the music score.
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Quite correct. Music credit has changed from Chris Boardman to Scott Stambler.
     
  8. ppltd

    ppltd Well-Known Member

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    I actually like both versions equally and wish they would have put both on this disk. What a missed opportunity.
     
  9. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Not in the studios eyes, otherwise, they would've been released together.[​IMG] I actually like the DC better including the new musical score. Porter is one tough SOB.[​IMG]




    Crawdaddy
     
  10. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Well-Known Member

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    Not as tough as in the original cut of this movie; although, in this cut Porter is e a more realistic character than in the original cut. I found one that new element added to this film was unrealistic, but it was only a small nitpick. The rest of the film was good. I think both cuts of this movie are good, but the DC is the better cut because the director's original intent was to create a movie that was an homage to late 60s and early 70s crime films. In that respect, the DC really succeeds.
     
  11. DavidDTS

    DavidDTS Active Member

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    Bugsy's is just an "Extended Version" though.....has Levinson commented on the new cut?
     
  12. Geoff_D

    Geoff_D Well-Known Member

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    As much as I like the theatrical version of Payback, with its toe-smashing, swaggering score and steely blue look, I like the DC even more. It's a leaner, meaner movie, and with the warmer colours restored it feels more like the tough '70s flicks that it's paying homage to. The HD-DVD is great too.
     
  13. Chad Ferguson

    Chad Ferguson Well-Known Member

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    Maybe it was just me but I think the theatrical cut was much better than this edition.
     
  14. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Well-Known Member

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    Finally got around to seeing this one tonight via Blockbuster Online. [​IMG]

    Really liked this cut although I do prefer the original. Still, this is such a different film in many, many ways. I enjoyed it quite a bit and have now placed this in my "future purchase queue" [​IMG]

    Like Tom said, this was a missed opportunity here. Why not give us both versions especially since these are rather short feature length films. The original payback was a solid hit for Paramount back in 1999 and deserved a chance on HD. Why this version was chosen for HD first is kind of strange.

    It's a very good film though and worthy of one's collection.

    I loved the documentary regarding how all of this came together a couple of years ago in trying to put together this cut. Cool stuff and has current interviews with Mel and the directors & producers.

    It's also a terrific looking HD DVD. Gunshots are rather forceful here. [​IMG]

    Gritty and kind of cool at the same. But that's how I felt about the original film too. Dang, now I want that one in HD too. [​IMG]
     
  15. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Well-Known Member

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    I also watched this few days ago on BD. Nothing has messed up my mind this much than this version of Payback. No special edition I mean, not even Star Wars! In the sense that when you have a different version of a movie, you watch and makeup your mind and choose the version that you like. That will be an improved version of the same old movie with the same feeling.

    With Payback and Payback DC you get 2 different movies. One is not just an improvement of the other, they are totally different in their mood, feeling and other things. So basically I liked both for totally different reasons and will watch both at different times when I’m in different moods!

    The original is a more “fun” version. It’s louder with explosions and a “grander” music, it’s less dramatic.

    The DC is more realistic with no explosions and a more serious feeling thanks to several reasons. In the DC they have removed many little “cheesy” moments or dialogs (habahaba for ex). The music is more dramatic and helps many little dramatic moments like when Porter tries his gun or enters his home.
     
  16. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Well-Known Member

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    I much prefer the theatrical film. The look, the mood, the humor, the film noir aspect. It was one of those cool little gems of 99 that didn't get much attention. I have a feeling if I saw the DC first I never would have given the theatrical a chance. Amazing how different they are.
     

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