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Paycheck (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

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 year’s 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his latest, three-year project, but upon finishing the contract, the paycheck he would normally expect to pick up has been replaced by an envelope full of random objects and an agreement to forfeit his own payment.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, Woo’s 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.

It’s entertaining enough, if only to see how preposterous it becomes, but you can’t 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, doesn’t 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 director’s 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 that’s new to admire from the director’s 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.

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