HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

AGENDA: PAYBACK -- Movie Review by Porfle

Turnabout is turnabout is turnabout is fair play in AGENDA: PAYBACK, aka "Unhinged" (2018), a punishing suspense thriller in which the balance of deadly power goes back and forth more times than a badminton match played with lawn darts. 

When Peter Farrell (Eric Balfour) kidnaps unscrupulous business huckster Steve Walsh (Sean Patrick Flanery, DEADLY IMPACT, BOONDOCK SAINTS), whom he blames for ruining his life and causing the death of a loved one, he has it all planned like one of the spec movie scripts he writes.  Steve's bound to a chair in the cellar of a secluded cabin, where Peter has invited several of the people he's wronged to come and, for a price, take turns exacting brutal revenge.

This leads to a succession of unpleasant scenes with a vocally unrepentant Steve getting tortured by the likes of a drug-trafficking criminal, a crooked politician, and a crazy broad who holds a grudge against the guy for throwing her over in the romance department. 

These aren't exactly characters I care to identify with, and neither is Peter himself for that matter.  I like Eric Balfour from the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake and HELL RIDE, but here his character comes off as a weak sort of self-pitying opportunist at first, blaming Steve for a fatal accident that was, in fact, his own fault. 

We don't have enough of a stake in Steve's sketchily-drawn character to relish seeing him suffer.  And without much of a story to keep us occupied, we're reduced to simply waiting to see who his next torturer will be and how much damage they'll do.

The upshot of this is that I started sympathizing with bad ol' Steve, who, despite being a louse, valiantly keeps up a strident stream of invective even as his scummy enemies brutally go to work on him with both fists and an array of torture implements.

Thankfully, however, this isn't the gist of the entire film as I initially feared.  When Steve manages to escape (yay!) that's when AGENDA: PAYBACK turns from a borderline torture-porn bore that I was starting to hate into an involving suspense flick with some unexpected twists and a few wickedly intriguing situations.

We get to see what happens with Steve suddenly in charge of things and Peter on the receiving end of a little pain and terror himself.  And then it all switches back again, and then again.  And then another of Steve's vengeful enemies shows up for his appointment, and he's the worst one, and that's when things really hit the fan.

By now, my initial negative response to this film had shifted much like the numerous power shifts between its lead characters.  Still, it does turn into a bit of a shaggy dog story near the end and things tend to drag a bit.  

Through it all, despite Peter's sob stories about how the bad man did him wrong, my main source of interest here is Sean Patrick Flanery as horrible old Steve, who somehow comes off as perversely heroic (or at least tolerable) in his fierce defiance and improbable resourcefulness. 

That's what makes AGENDA: PAYBACK interesting--it doesn't give us a villain who's easy to hate, or a supposed hero who's noble or even right.  And the ending blurs things even more, making this one of those movies you might feel ambivalent about even as you can't stop thinking about it after the fadeout.
Instagram: Smokehammermedia


No comments: