Paycheck is an action movie built around a science fiction premise. Unfortunately, this premise wasn't fully fleshed out so in the end it is an action rather than science fiction movie.

Review by Wasa
September 14, 2008

Paycheck Movie

Director: John Woo

story: Philip K. Dick
screenplay: Dean Georgaris

Ben Affleck as Michael Jennings
Aaron Eckhart as James Rethrick
Uma Thurman as Dr. Rachel Porter
Paul Giamatti as Shorty
Colm Feore as John Wolfe

Released: 2003

Holographic Woman:It's time to wake up... and get a life.

Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is a reverse engineer. Companies hire him to take apart the technology that has recently been launched on the market, and figure out how it works and create something similar or better without copying the product he started with. When his job is done - which usually takes two or three weeks - his memories of that time are erased and he gets a paycheck.

When his friend James Rethrick offers him a job which would require three years of Michael's life he hesitates but he can not resist the 8-figure paycheck so he takes the job and joins Rethrick's team. For Michael Jennings, and for us, three years go by in an eyeblink. He wakes up in Rethrick's office, in the same chair he started from. Rethrick is there, too, and, tells him smilingly: "Michael, you're done!". And how true it is.

Everything seems fine until the moment Michael finds out that he gave up 92 million dollars' worth of shares for an envelope full of what looks like a bunch of useless trinkets. To make matters worse, he realizes that he has the FBI and company men on his tail.

With no memories of what he did, or what he has built in the past three years, he has to solve a mystery with the only clues he has: sunglasses, a pack of cigarettes, a bus fare, a diamond ring, a paperclip, a fortune from a cookie, a janitor's key, lighter, a hairspray, a matchbook, an Allcom pass, a BMW key, a looking glass, a stamp, ball bearings, an Allen wrench or hex key, an Eisenhower Dollar, a crossword puzzle, a bullet and a watch. (Did I just call those clues?! That's nothing short of a warehouse!) Plus, he will have the help of a woman who has the evidence of the two of them spending the last two and a half years - the erased years - together, of which, naturally, he has no recollection.

From this point on, the movie unexpectedly shifts into an action mode with a lot of car chase, flying fisticuffs and gunshots typical of John Woo's style.

Paycheck is, unfortunately, the kind of movie that sounds much more interesting and exciting when you talk about it than when you watch it. The movie plays with a very intriguing premise, which revolves around the idea of self-fulfilling prophesy - it is based on Philip K. Dick's short novel of the same name - but most of that is lost in a cascade of action-packed sequences.

There is no room for the characters to grow. We do not get a chance to relate to them, and, funnily enough, by the end of movie we know as much about them as we did at the beginning. The movie just doesn't live up to its potential, and that is a real shame.

Paycheck is based on a provoking idea, which, sadly, is never sufficiently fleshed out; it also has some fine action sequences and pretty decent special effects, which you would expect from a John Woo movie, but it lacks substance: well-drawn characters and the chemistry between the main actors.

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