DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.
Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/19/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/5/2009
I'm typically not one to pick on ironic movie titles, as they are usually
obvious to everyone and a target which is far too easy. Still, I must say that
it's unfortunate that Ben Affleck, an actor which many consider undertalented
and overpaid, would make a movie entitled Paycheck. I certainly can't
knock him for wanting to try something different, but in making a film with that
title, he should've ensured that it was the greatest movie ever made. But, it's
In the science-fiction film Paycheck, Affleck stars as Michael Jennings, who is a reverse engineer. Companies pay him handsomely to create products using pre-existing technology, and then erase his memory, so that he has no recollection of having worked on the project. Thus, Michael leads an odd life, living from paycheck to paycheck, confiding only in his friend, Shorty (Paul Giamatti). For his latest assignment, Michael has agreed to work for his old friend Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart). The job could last as long as three years, none of which Michael will remember, but the payoff will be millions of dollars.
In an instant, the time is up, Michael has finished the project, and doesn't remember a thing about it. But, when he goes to collect his paycheck, he instead finds that he has sent himself an envelope containing 20 seemingly random items. Meanwhile, Rethrick learns that Michael has sabotaged the project, and sends his men to find Michael. Now Michael is on the run along with scientist Rachel (Uma Thurman), a woman that he doesn't remember being in love with, and must use the contents of the envelope to elude capture and try to remember his past.
Paycheck is an odd movie that can't decide exactly what it wants to be. This indecision leaves us with a film which is entertaining, but offers little substance. Paycheck's main problem is that it tries to be too many things at once. The film is based on a short story from famed sci-fi author Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Minority Report), and the film shares themes with Total Recall, which was also based on Dick's work. The movie has some science-fiction touches, for example, the memory erasing and the project on which Michael was working, but it doesn't really have the look and feel of sci-fi movie. Michael's use of the objects in the envelope to save himself and regain his memory has a very film noir feel and could have come straight out of any pulp novel. Paycheck was directed by action veteran John Woo, and while there are a few good action scenes, the movie plays more like a thriller than an action movie. Woo himself states that he wanted the movie to have a Hitchcock feel. All of these elements are fine in their own right, but they just don't gel in this movie. The action scenes are OK at best, and the sci-fi elements seem very rehashed. Only the use of the envelope and Michael's need to discover the proper use for each item is truly interesting, as it reminded me of an "Encyclopedia Brown" story, or perhaps the premise for a video game. If you allow yourself to become involved in Paycheck, you'll be playing the game along with Michael and thinking, "Now what can this paper-clip be for?"
The film is also marred by the lackluster screenplay by Dean Georgaris. There are some clues given at the outset which ultimately rob much of the film of any suspense. And despite a decent performance by Aaron Eckhart, Rethrick has to be one of the most underwritten characters ever. Beyond simple greed, we're never sure what motivates him and it's unclear just how evil he really is. The oft-maligned Mr. Affleck does just fine in the film, combining the action-star chops that he's been honing as of late with the laid-back charm which he displays in his indie comedies. Michael is simply an engineer who is caught in a deadly game of espionage and Affleck is fine in relaying his emotions to the audience. Uma Thurman is fine in her role, but she really isn't in the film all that much. Paycheck isn't necessarily a bad film, and it can be quite entertaining while you're watching it, but you won't need to have your memory erased to immediately forget about it.
Paycheck cashes in on
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long