Review Date: December 22, 2003
Director: John Woo
Writer: Dean Georgaris
Producers: Terence Chang, John Woo
Ben Affleck as Michael Jennings
Uma Thurman as Rachel
Aaron Eckhart as Rethrick
A smart guy with great hair gets paid top dollar to reverse-engineer technologies for bigwig corporations, only to be zapped of all his job-related memory after completing said assignments. His latest gig is his biggest yet, taking 3 years to complete, but also paying him eight digits in return. The downside? Once done, those 3 years of his life will be erased from his memory. Would you do it? I'd do it for eight bucks. The smart guy takes the gig only to return to find that he's got dick money and coppers on his ass. Affleck...ensues!
PAYCHECK is one of those movies that you're likely to have a "so-so" time while watching, but then forget all about a few minutes later and remember even less about when thinking of what parts entertained you in the first place. The film wasn't as bad as I'd heard but was generic and unmemorable. It did, strangely, entertain me for the most part though, with a kickass premise, a decent pace and a thrilling action sequence or two (not more). It did all that, however, without really injecting much originality or excitement into the proceedings. Es tu, Woo? A great set-up, millions of dollars and a loved one's memory at stake (I'm with you so far), but then, much like any other Philip K. Dick short sci-fi story (MINORITY REPORT, IMPOSTOR...), it basically all turns into "a chase" and the rest of the film is just that, balanced with a mystery that isn't all that difficult to figure out. Unfortunately for sci-fi fans like myself, once the chase begins, so does the lack of "futuristic elements" involved and for a movie that's apparently set in the future, uuuuhhmm, well...it'd be nice to actually "feel" like we were in such a world, as opposed to just downtown Vancouver-present day! The motorcycle pursuit is probably the film's greatest highlight, but even that can't hold a candle to what the Wachowskis delivered in THE MATRIX RELOADED. If anything, I think we can all agree that this is far from being director John Woo's finest work. He delivers a couple of interesting scenarios, but overall, feels like he's coasting, with nary the special effect or balls-out gunfight implanting genuine creative visuals into the audience's memory stems.
The finale is particularly ho-hum with a bunch of disposable security guards fighting the ass-kicking engineer Affleck and the ass-kicking biologist Thurman. Yeah...just go with it. I didn't particularly have a problem with the film's plotline myself (just make sure that you bring enough "suspension of disbelief" for your buddies as well) and actually appreciated its play with time, fate, memory and prediction. The dialogue wasn't particularly standout, but nothing extensively horrible either (although there's no reason for Aaron Eckhart to deliver one of the super-cheesiest lines of the year at some point: "I am the future!"-gimme a break) I'm a fan of Affleck's and while not required to stretch much here, did a fine job (as did his hair), while Thurman felt more like she was in it for the film's title (and is it me, or has she had better days...looks-wise?) In the end, I think the film's greatest drawback was its director's lack of vision and understanding of the world of technology and his inability to incorporate it further into the storyline. Dude, watch MINORITY REPORT and see how master Spielberg orchestrates a tale that not only, looks like it takes place in the future, but also works on the emotional, thrilling and surprising levels as well. In fact, you might as well catch this film on video and rent MINORITY REPORT instead...a much better movie! Or see PayBACK...also great! After WINDTALKERS and now this film, I'm starting to wonder if Woo's greatest American movie will always remain FACE-OFF. A slow-motion dove flying into a room and a Mexican standoff, do not a great John Woo movie make!
(c) 2013 Berge Garabedian