STARRING: Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, Paul Giamatti Wolfe, Colm Feore

2003, 110 Minutes, Directed by John Woo

Description: An engineer (Ben Affleck, Chasing Amy) routinely agrees to have his memory erased after every job so that he doesn't know what he's done. But after the biggest job of his life, he discovers that not only has he refused a $90 million paycheck, he's sent himself an envelope full of things he doesn't recognize--and he doesn't remember doing any of this. As he unravels the plot, he discovers he's also fallen in love (with Uma Thurman, Kill Bill) and invented a dangerous device for his former boss (Aaron Eckhart, Erin Brockovich).

Paycheck has a lot going for it: an intriguing premise provided courtesy of the legendary SF author Philip K. Dick and is directed by the renowned John Woo. Unfortunately it also has a leading man in Ben Affleck (Daredevil), one of the blandest actors vying for Hollywood’s action movie crown now that Harrison Ford is on pension.

Dick wrote the short stories and novels that were the inspiration behind some of the better sci-fi action movies to have come out of Hollywood, namely Blade Runner, Minority Report and Total Recall. Strangely, despite several of his works being adopted for the big screen none of these movies can be properly described as being truly Dickian (stop sniggering you).

His works are idiosyncratic and offbeat; however, none of the movies based on his material thus far has managed to capture the same paranoid and philosophical qualities that made his work so unique. (Perhaps the upcoming A Scanner Darkly adaptation directed by the Waking Life director and the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind screenwriter utilizing the same animation techniques employed in Waking Life will change this.)

Woo, of course, needs no introduction: best-known for Hong Kong action movies such as the ultra-violent Hard Boiled, his mega budget Hollywood output has so far been patchy ranging from the likes of Mission Impossible 2 and Face/Off to Broken Arrow and Hard Target.

So who will win out? The dynamic director and source material or the bland leading star? The bland leading man I’m afraid. Not that it is all Affleck’s fault. Woo is on autopilot turning Paycheck into one long chase movie and the story will seem familiar to anyone who has seen Total Recall or Minority Report.

Lately Hollywood has been taking some good and interesting ideas and turning them into boring and predictable movies (Underworld and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes to mind). Paycheck continues this depressing trend.

I’m sure some other critic probably made a remark about the title being prophetic because everybody involved in this uninspired action movie were there for . . . yes, the paycheck . . . so I don’t even want to go there . . .

(Incidentally, did anyone else notice the grammar mistakes made on the “headings” on the fake newspaper clippings used in the movie?)



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