Review By Paul Mount, 3.5 out of 5 PAYCHECK is based on a short story by SF author Philip K. Dick, whose work has had a pretty decent time of it on the big screen in one way another. Think BLADE RUNNER, think MINORITY REPORT – arguably two of the defining SF films of the last twenty-odd years. Fortunately – and contrary to what you?e probably read elsewhere – the tradition continues and thrives in PAYCHECK, an inventive, fast-paced, thought-provoking adrenalin-rush of a movie directed by John Woo. You?l remember Mr Woo? FACE/OFF the film which more or less redefined the term ?ar-fetched? PAYCHECK sails pretty close to the same raised eyebrow territory here but a nicely-structured plot, a good scripts and some formidable performances manage to reign in the unlikeliness of it all to create a time travel flick with a bit of a difference.
That big lug Ben Affleck plays engineer Michael Jennings who makes a healthy living working on top secret scientific projects and then, in return for large wads of the folding stuff, has his memory of his work erased to remove any possibility of industrial sabotage. When he? offered some serious moolah – ninety million dollars plus – in return for losing three years of his memory?ell, come on, what would you do? Thirty-six months later Big ben has no idea what he? been working on but when he ?akes up?he saunters off to the bank in his best suit to claim his rightful Benjamins. Imagine his surprise when he? told he recently signed away his rights to the money in exchange for an envelope full of meaningless trinkets – a subway ticket, a cheap ring, a magnifying glass, some cigarettes, a key fob marked ?dison??and some other tat. Within minutes ben’s on the run being chased by men with big guns and he ends up a prisoner of the FBI who suspect he’s been doing the dirty on the Government. When one of his captors lights up one of ben’s ciggies, the relevance of all the bits and bobs he’s previously sent himself starts to become apparent…
Ben Affleck has been the media’s whipping boy for much of this year, due partly to his profile relationship with Jenny from the Block but also due to their disastrous vanity turkey GIGLI. But Ben’s all right. He tends to look as if he’s wondered in from some rugby club function but he’s not an especially bad actor. He manages to imbue Jennings with the requisitive light and shade we’d expect of a man in his desperate, confusing situation and he handles the frequernt action sequences with vigour and enthusiasm (which is morwe than he was able to manage in last year’s cumbersome DAREDEVIL) He’s ably supported by the excellent Aaron (THE CORE) Eckhart as the oily bad guy and Uma Thurman whose role as the willowy love interest comes as a shock after her turn in the KILL BILL twosome.
John Woo can handle this sort of stuff in his sleep and there’s a sense that he’s done so here. the drama and action are noticably lower key than in his recent efforts but in truth that’s no bad thing. There’s a good car chase sequence and a really spectacular and quite claustrophobic finale set amidst all the hi-tech seeing-into-the-future scientific jiggery-pokery which caused all the trouble in the first place.
Critics who pooh-poohed PAYCHECK did so either because ben’s an easy target or, more lijkely, they didnj’t understand it. Dimwits. PAYCHECK is worth checking out with a slice of your pay (yesssss!!!) and is a damn sight more enjoyable than one or two other so-called actioners of recent vintage. Enjoy.
THE DISC: Not a huge amount of extras but there are two commentaries, deleted scenes and a ‘making of’ featurette. The picture is crisp and clean and the soundtrack will give your 5.1 speakers a good seeing-to.