PAYCHECK
John Woo, Director


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Paramount Pictures & DreamWorks Pictures
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is a brilliant reverse engineer for hire to the highest bidder. He designs in reverse. He can create copies of any high tech property on the market today, improving them in the process in order to sidestep copywrite difficulties. His employers pay him very well to steal their competitors’ designs, and afterwards, they use a new technology that wipes his memory.

Jennings is invited to a party by billionaire Allcom executive Jimmy Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), who offers him an opportunity to work on a groundbreaking project that would make him a wealthy man. He also meets the lovely Dr. Rachel Porter (Uma Thurman), a biologist for Allcom. Interested in the prospect of seeing Dr. Porter at work everyday, Jennings signs a contract to work on a three year project with Allcom that will earn him a huge paycheck. The contract includes a nondisclosure agreement that allows Allcom to wipe his memory when he leaves the project. The project involves a new technology that can predict the future, but Jennings eventually discovers its impact could destroy the world. When Jennings leaves Allcom he finds something has gone awry. He discovers he has signed away his paycheck and stock options. All he has to show for his work is an envelope with 19 objects, everyday items like a can of hair spray, a paper clip, and a lighter. They are his only clues to unlock the mystery of the last three years. Using his genius for reverse engineering, he takes the clues in the envelope and uses them to undo his work at Allcom.

PAYCHECK is a John Woo sci-fi action film based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. Dick's writings are also credited as the basis for the films BLADE RUNNER, TOTAL RECALL, and THE MINORITY REPORT. It's filled with Woo's trademark chase scenes and martial arts action, but the film ultimately falls short. Some aspects of the movie offered clever surprises, including the technology and the trail of clues Jennings left for himself, but other elements were implausible and rushed. The romantic relationship was weak, and most of the focus of the film was on the action. Uma Thurman's character was treated as nothing more than feminine window dressing, as Dr. Porter is one of the things wiped from Jennings’ memory. Affleck has a wonderful on-screen presence, and I would love to see him in more dramatic roles in the future, but pay check is likely what he was thinking when he signed on to do this film. The screenplay was written by Dean Georgaris. Running time, 1 hour & 50 minutes. Rated PG 13 for action, violence and language.

 

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