Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD EXTRA FEATURES: Commentary by John Woo; Commentary by
screenwriter Dean Georgaris; Featurettes: 'Paycheck: Designing
the Future' and 'Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck'; Extended/
deleted scenes; Regions 2/4.
RIGHT from the off, you have to question the validity of a premise
which casts Ben Affleck as a genius, in a film directed by John
Woo. The equation is already out of balance.
Toss in the fact that Paycheck is based on a short story by Philip
K Dick (the brains behind Minority
Report and Blade Runner), and you have the potential for one
of the years unlikeliest comedies, which is some sort of
reason for seeing it, I guess.
Affleck stars as world-famous corporate genius, Michael Jennings,
who is hired for top-secret projects, only to have his memory
routinely erased once a job is completed, so as not to divulge
any company secrets.
Although highly paid for his work, not even he can turn down
the offer of an eight-figure sum for his latest, three-year project,
but upon finishing the contract, the paycheck he would normally
expect to pick up has been replaced by an envelope full of random
objects and an agreement to forfeit his own payment.
With his memory erased, Jennings faces a race against time to
piece things back together, using the objects in the envelope
as clues, before the people on his trail find and kill him.
Tossing aside any intriguing element of the story, such as why
a person might want to give up three years of their life, or the
importance of memory, Woos film opts instead for one routine
chase sequence after another, with very little in the way of characterisation
or substance to keep genuine science fiction fans enthralled.
Its entertaining enough, if only to see how preposterous
it becomes, but you cant help feeling that this is a waste
of the talents of just about everyone involved, especially its
strong support cast, which includes the likes of Paul Giamatti,
Uma Thurman and Aaron Eckhart, without every really making full
use of them.
Affleck, for his part, doesnt look out of place in the
action sequences, but seems to have lost the charisma of early
roles, seeming content, merely, to pick up his own pay cheque
for appearing, while Woo feels impeded by the 12A certificate,
and a curiously erased memory himself.
Fans of the Hong Kong action master are certain to lament the
directors apparently lazy decision to provide a greatest
hits compilation of former action sequences, with nods to the
motorbike sequence in Mission
Impossible II, sitting uncomfortably alongside the Mexican
stand-off between arch-enemies in Face/Off, and the obligatory
white dove cropping up for laughter value late on.
Indeed, there is very little thats new to admire from the
directors bag of tricks, save for the odd kick or punch,
which sends an adversary flying in various slow-motion directions.
The futuristic element of the story also looks a little half-hearted,
while the lack of any emotional engagement makes it hard for cast
or crew to build any tension.
Vincenzo Natali took a similar premise and made Cypher,
last year, which provided a far more effective exploration of
the themes within Paycheck. Woo, however, seems merely content
to dumb things down in favour of easy popcorn thrills. The result
is extremely forgettable.