Based on the novel The Hunter by Richard Stark, Payback stars Mel Gibson as Porter, a hard-boiled career criminal who is out to settle a score. Left for dead by his partners after they double-cross him and rob him of his cut of $70,000, Porter wants revenge. Our tough but lovable antihero will stop at nothing to get his money back—and he doesn't want a dime less than what he is owed!
Special features are exactly the same as on the DVD: commentary by Writer/Director Brian Helgeland, the two-part ("On Location In Chicago" and "On Set In Los Angeles") 50-minute "Paybacks Are A Bitch" featurette, the 29-minute "Same Story—Different Movie, Creating Payback: The Director's Cut" featurette, an 11-minute conversation with Author Donald E. Westlake, and previews.
The MPEG-2-encoded Blu-ray Disc and H.264 AVC-encoded HD DVD both look good, with deep, solid blacks and good shadow delineation. The contrasted grittiness of the filming is transferred well to high-definition, but is not as highly detailed as the best releases. Fine textures are not resolved as well as many other releases, and the feel of depth in the image is not as pervasive as those releases as well. (Danny Richelieu)
The Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack sounds very much like the previously released version, with sound effects that are at times quite dimensional—especially street scene sounds, such as the "L" tracking across the split surrounds and up the side walls of the soundfield. Dramatically, there are explosions that are effectively impactful, with deep and powerful bass enhanced with aggressive .1 LFE. Bass energy in the split surrounds is impressive, extending below 25 Hz, and powerful. Dialogue is the least natural element with a closed-miked Mel Gibson that sounds chesty and equalized, though the other character voices sound natural and often are nicely integrated spatially. The Blu-ray Disc's Dolby Digital encoding provides a slight refinement in overall fidelity over the DVD, and the HD DVD's Dolby Digital Plus encoding improves upon that as well, if only slightly. The mix is the same, meaning both versions deliver an exciting experience. (Danny Richelieu)