Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: "Paycheck" More Than Minimum Wage Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 108 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Paycheck (2003)
Running time: 119 minutes (1 hour, 59 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense action violence and brief language
WRITER: Dean Georgaris (based upon a short story by Philip K. Dick)
PRODUCERS: Terence Chang, John Davis, Michael Hackett, and John Woo
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeffrey L. Kimball (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Christopher Rouse and Kevin Stitt
COMPOSERS: John Powell


Starring: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore, Joe Morton, Michael C. Hall, and Peter Friedman

The subject of this movie review is Paycheck, a 2003 science fiction movie from director John Woo and starring Ben Affleck. The film is based on the short story, “Paycheck,” written by author Philip K. Dick and first published in the June 1953 issue of Imagination, a 1950s American science fiction and fantasy magazine. Paycheck the movie focuses on an engineer who takes what seems like an easy million-dollar payday, but ends up on the run and trying to piece together the reason why.

Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck), a brilliant reverse engineer (takes other people’s technology and works backwards to figure out what makes the tech work), takes a job from a powerful friend named Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart). The final part of each of Michael’s assignments involves his employer wiping Michael’s mind clean of the memories of his time working on a project; that’s how his employers keep what they’ve done secret.

However, Michael discovers something decidedly nasty while working on Rethrick’s project, so he mails himself a package full of goodies to help him remember his mission before Rethrick has Michael’s memory wiped. The problem is that once he wakes up from his mind wipe, he can’t remember why he needs this packet full of odds and ends, but he does learn that Rethrick wants him dead.

The writings of science fiction author Philip K. Dick, especially his short fiction, has been adapted into quite a few well-regarded films including Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. Director John Woo’s Paycheck is the most recent adaptation, and while the film doesn’t make movie history or break new ground in cinema as the aforementioned have, Paycheck is an entertaining action thriller that doesn’t wear its sci-fi on its sleeves.

This is an old-fashioned action movie that relies on complicated and dangerous stunt work for the action sequences. It does not rely on CGI and the other computer enhancements that have become so favored since The Matrix. The film is true to what Woo does best, pure macho action built around car chases, explosions, gunfights, and fisticuffs. While Paycheck may not be as good as Woo classics like his Hong Kong work or Face/Off, the film is in that spirit.

The casting, however, isn’t great; I could think of actors who would have better fit these roles, and some of these actors weren’t given much with which to work. Still, everyone is game, and they seemed like they were into the film. They play their parts well enough to make this quite entertaining, so while Paycheck isn’t landmark science fiction, it is a fun movie to watch. It has more than enough suspense and mystery to keep the viewer intrigued. And while the chase scenes won’t keep you on the edge of the your seat all the time, they’ll get you close enough most of the time.

7 of 10

2004 Razzie Awards: 1 win “Worst Actor” (Ben Affleck – also for Daredevil-2003 and Gigli-2003)

2010 Razzie Awards: 1 nomination: “Worst Actor of the Decade” (Ben Affleck – also for Daredevil-2003, Gigli-2003, Jersey Girl-2004, Pearl Harbor-2001, and Surviving Christmas-2004; nominated for 9 “achievements” and “winner” of 2 Razzies)


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