Paycheck


Year 2006

Ben Affleck as  Michael Jennings   
Aaron Eckhart   as Rethrick
Uma Thurman as Rachel Porter
Paul Giamatti as Shorty
Colm Feore as Wolf
 
Director - John Woo
Screenwriter - Dean Georgaris
Short Story Author    - Philip K. Dick

 


This movie almost made the bad list. Give it a pass unless you need to watch every movie ever made from a story by Philip K. Dick, the master of science fiction based paranoia. On the rankings list of Philip K. Dick stories made into movies, and that list includes "Screamers" and "Imposter", "Paycheck" brings up the rear.

In this adaptation, Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck cue the AFLAC duck) makes his living by performing illegal jobs and then having all memory of the task wiped from his brain. All he knows is that, at the end of the assignment, he gets a big paycheck.

But on his last assignment, this engineer gave away his one-hundred-million dollar paycheck, his biggest ever...ever. Now he needs to find out why. Of course, now he's being pursued by the government and the company he did the work for. They want him dead. (Oh, no! You're kidding, right? Dead?)

John Woo meets Philip K. Dick. What a mismatch. The glitzy-special-effects-at-the-expense-of-a-plot director takes on one of science fiction's psychological plot driven heavy weights. John Woo wins, but it's a Pyrrhic Victory because the film loses.

John Woo should stick to action heroes, not paranoid anti-heroes.

What's wrong with the film? Uh, Ben Affleck (cue the duck). I suppose if Keanu Reeves can find work, Ben's also entitled. Ben Affleck as a combination super engineer and martial arts "expert"? Oh, yeah. I meet them everyday. The ones who can't do a single sit-up are the most macho-est.

And this illegal activity that he gets paid big bucks for? He can reverse engineer things! Oh, no! What a horrible thing. Now I know why he gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per two month job and needs to have his memory wiped clean. If someone found out that he (dare I say it) reverse engineered a piece of hardware (there, I've said it) it could cause...I don't know. It happens all the time. It doesn't matter who reverse engineers something or how, it's whether a product is released with stolen technology that makes it a crime.

So, the first thing Jennings does in the movie is reverse engineer and improve upon a 3-D computer display. His method of doing it using a 3-D model that already has the reverse engineered hardware ready for him to take credit for is hokey enough. What's even hokier is that this 3-D diplay that is supposed to be such a major deal within the movie is never seen again. Yup. Years later, movie time, this great breakthrough that made a company millions isn't ever seen being used again. Nice way to immerse me in the movie.

And that's one of the problems with this movie. Crap only gets introduced for one of two reasons:

  1. It looks cool
  2. It looks cool and the director has figured out a way to make it look cool twice.

I'm not just talking about weather machines that are used as ineffective weapons against Jennings for no reason other than #2. I'm talking about people, too. Take the character Shorty (Paul Giamatti). This character serves no purpose other than to have Paul Giamatti prop up Ben Affleck (cue the duck, then queue the duck. Do it both ways!).

And the suspect continuity? Shorty says, "I told you not to take the job". When did Shorty say this? In a deleted scene. How about when the FBI decides to kill Jennings because they have the item everyone wants. When did they get this machine, which is what they really want? Never! Or when the head evil guy says, "She knows nothing." When did he find out? Why, he found out in a scene we only see a truncated portion of.

How about the science? How 'bout them science! There's a lot of pseudo-science mumbo jumbo being discussed. But falsely quoting Einstein is going too far! Einstein never said people couldn't travel into the future or past. He merely demonstrated that the amount of energy it would take to do that would make it improbable. Einstein had a pretty open mind towards fringe ideas.

So why isn't this movie just plain bad? Well, the special effects are pretty cool. They make no sense, but they're cool. The action is pretty good near the end of the film. But once Jennings gets away (you knew he would, right?), turn off the movie. Both the theatrical and the alternate endings are among the most insipid I've ever seen.


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