Porter is miffed. Really miffed.

Having been double-crossed by partner Val Resnick (Gregg Henry) - who subsequently slimed off with Porter's duplicitous wife Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger), he's now lying in a bloody mess awaiting the removal of two bullets from his back by a back-street surgeon using only liberally-splashed scotch as an anaesthetic.

The trouble with this line of work, Porter growls in voice-over, is the lack of quality health-care.

This line of work being the appropriation of funds using methods not exactly sanctioned by the legal authorities. Or nicking stuff.

Because Porter is - and very nearly was - a small-time hood, but as the latest scam goes belly up, it's Resnick who steals Porter's wife, his share of the 140,000 dollars, and very nearly his life.

The fact that he survives, however, is bad news. Bad news for Val, for Lynn, and anyone else who stands in the way of Porter getting his money back.

Seeing Gibson stride through the lead role of this dark, violent revenge thriller is a treat we've been long denied.

In a faceless, washed-out cityscape, his is an avenging angel who's fallen with a capital F - a grim, implacable force bent on serious retribution, and it's rare to see a star of Gibson's calibre chancing his arm on a wholly amoral and unsympathetic anti-hero.

There are no mitigating circumstances, everyone's a villain, and the only reason we're siding with Porter is that Resnick and cronies are even more loathsome, and he was fitted-up first (oh, and he is, after all, Mel Gibson).

In this, and only this, is there a slight suspicion of cheating: that without Gibson's familiar chops, connection with Porter would be a more difficult proposition.

But this is what makes the movie world tick, and although his presence was also ultimately responsible for director Brian Helgeland (writer on Mel's Conspiracy Theory) storming out over the demand for post-production re-shoots, Helgeland's input is still crucial to the film's success.

Using the bleach-bypass development process on the print (which leaves it with cold, muted colours) was his decision, as was the impeccable casting.

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