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When Kathryn Stillman (Mary Tyler Moore) alerts the police about someone who is stalking her, they arrive on the scene and give the suspect a brutal beating. Kathryn is subsequently persuaded to give evidence against the cop responsible, Brian Kaleen, and he is suspended from duty. But rather than just accept his punishment, Kaleen exacts revenge by arresting first Kathryn, then her son Adam, accusing him of murder. To save Adam from 30 years in jail, Kathryn must give evidence against the cop, but it seems he is prepared to kill in order to stop her from speaking in court.
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Filmed in and around Portland, Oregon, "Payback" is based loosely on real events. It is centred around a working mother (Moore) who witnesses a brutal incident of police violence and who becomes the target of a rogue cop's revenge after she reports the crime to an internal affairs investigator (Asner). Also starring Fredric Lehne.
It has to be tough for TV legends to find work, but the awkward Moore acts as if she wandered into the wrong movie. And it carries the title Payback. That's the only thing succinct about this sordid thriller.
Although this is a made-for-TV movie (and it shows), it's quite frightening; not in the way horror is frightening, of course, but because most of us (if not all of us) must dread the very idea of becoming the target of a vendetta.
Moore plays restaurateur Kathryn Stanfill, who testifies against police officers who beat up a man. Then the reign of terror begins. Police pull over Stanfill in the belief she's driving a stolen car. Police investigate her husband, a teacher, for sexual harassment. She receives belligerent late-night calls. Her car is towed.
This unimaginative drama saves the worst of it for her unfortunate son, who has had run-ins with the law. He's charged with rape. Then he's charged with murder, and that paves the way for a big trial, which causes Moore to cry. And the sociopathic cop (played by Fredric Lehne) is too boldly evil to be believable.
Payback puts Moore in one harrowing situation after another. Worst of all, the film forces Moore to go undercover at the end. The system doesn't work, the film says, so Moore has to play Dirty Harry!
Mary Tyler Moore gives a fascinating multi faceted performance as a a woman who discovers that the truth is nothing like how it appears and that her family is threatened and almost destroyed by her need to tell it
This is a disturbing film entirely due to the high quality of performances by all the actors involved.
It is so intersting to note that as films made by major studios become increasingly ludicrous and unwatchable small budget projects like this portray a Truth the bigger boys leave alone
Faves being SHOTGUN, SAMURAI COP and MALIBU EXPRESS.