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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.53%
Worth A Look30.26%
Average: 26.32%
Pretty Bad: 19.74%
Total Crap: 13.16%

4 reviews, 52 user ratings

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by Mel Valentin

"John Woo + Ben Affleck = major disappointment."
2 stars

When Hong Kong-turned-Hollywood filmmaker John Woo's ("Hard Boiled," "Bullet in the Head," "The Killer," "A Better Tomorrow I and II") career goes into retrospective mode (i.e., when he's officially or unofficially retired from directing), "Paycheck," a sloppily written, lazily directed science-fiction/action/adventure/thriller loosely (very loosely) based on a short story by Philip K. Dick starring Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman, will be conspicuous by its absence. Released at the end of 2003 to negative reviews and mediocre box office returns, "Paycheck" also capped Affleck's notorious trifecta. Along with Affleck's lethargic performances in "Daredevil" and "Gigli," "Paycheck" was a sure sign that critics and audiences had grown indifferent or even hostile to Affleck's once ubiquitous appearances in front of the camera.

The near future. Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck), a highly skilled engineer, gets a call from an old friend, billionaire businessman James Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart). Rethrick, the CEO/founder of Allcom, a high-tech company, needs Jennings’ help with a top-secret project. Rethrick won’t tell Jennings anything about the project, except that it’ll make Jennings millions. There’s one catch, though. In order to work on the top-secret project and collect Rethrick’s promised millions, Jennings has to undergo a complete mind-wipe at the end of the estimated three year long project. Jennings tours the facility, meets fellow project members, and catches the eye of a biologist, Dr. Rachel Porter (Uma Thurman, underused), working for Allcom. After some hesitation, Jennings agrees and Rethrick’s right-hand man, John Wolfe (Colm Feore), administers the first of two injections necessary to complete the mind-wipe process.

Flash forward three years. Jennings awakens (apparently wearing the same suit) and learns that the mystery project is complete and payday’s arrived. He’s also missing three years worth of memories. Happy to be on his way, Jennings stops by the pre-designated bank to collect his earnings, $92 million dollars in Allcom stock. Jennings is all set to enjoy a long, comfortable life in retirement. When he tries to make a withdrawal, however, he discovers that he’s forfeited all rights to the Allcom stock. All that’s left is a yellow manila envelope containing a variety of common objects (e.g., a pack of cigarettes, sunglasses, a bus pass, a diamond ring, a fortune cookie, janitor’s keys, a cigarette lighter, hairspray, a paperclip, a match book, etc.).

Before Jennings can figure out what’s going on, two FBI agents, Dodge (Joe Morton) and Klein (Michael C. Hall) arrest Jennings, bring him back to the local FBI offices, and inform Jennings that he’s probably committed treason. With the help of the cigarettes and the sunglasses, Jennings escapes detention. Moments later, the bus pass proves useful in escaping the FBI. With the help of an old friend, Shorty (Paul Giamatti), Jennings begins to piece together the nature of the secret project: a time viewer or window that allows the user to see into the future. Realizing that the time machine will give Rethrick too much power and lead to disaster, the pre-mind wipe Jennings looked into his own future and collected all the necessary objects to successfully escape Rethrick, the FBI, and destroy the machine. He also sabotaged the time machine.

The best that can be said about Paycheck is that Affleck and Woo did exactly what the title suggests, they fulfilled their contracts in front and behind the camera, collected their multi-million dollar paychecks, and moved on to other remunerative projects. Affleck followed Paycheck with equally unmemorable roles, Jersey Girl and Surviving Christmas before taking a much-needed year off (partly as a result of the Jennifer Lopez fiasco) and returning in 2006 with a better-than-average (for Affleck) performance as the washed up George Reeves in Hollywoodland and a walk-on role in Smokin’ Aces. Affleck may have a limited range, but when he’s trying (and admittedly that isn’t often), he’s more than watchable (as Changing Lanes showed five years ago.

Woo’s post-Paycheck career hasn’t been much better. Besides directing two made-for-television films (one a failed, never-aired pilot, a remake of Lost in Space, Woo has been quiet. Woo’s next project, The Battle of Red Cliff, a Chinese-language martial arts epic, makes all the more obvious that Woo’s sojourn in Hollywood that began in 1994 with Hard Target, Broken Arrow two years later, and Face-Off a year later has reached an end. If Woo’s career in Hollywood is over, then sadly, it’s obvious why: Paycheck was a lackluster, mediocre effort by a filmmaker once considered unparalled in the action genre. The action set pieces aren’t anything a competent director-for-hire couldn’t pull off. There’s little of Woo’s baroque visual style on display. That may have been due to Woo’s disinterest in the material or a limited budget ($60 million doesn’t go as far as it once did).

But Paycheck failure isn’t all due to Affleck and Woo’s disinterest in the project. Equal blame has to go to the screenwriter, Dean Georgaris, whose only writing credit before Paycheck was for the forgettable Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life. Why Georgaris was picked to write a screenplay based on a Philip K. Dick short story is anyone’s guess, but the script he came up with is riddled with plot holes, inconsistencies, lapses in logic, and clichéd plot elements that were already derivative when James Cameron used them to much better effect for The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1984 and 1991 respectively or Steven Spielberg used them for Minority Report just a year earlier. To be fair, Philip k. Dick’s short story was written in 1952 and published a year later in Imagination, so the time viewer idea is at least fifty years old. Fairness aside, audiences in 2003 probably thought of The Bourne Identity when Jennings agrees to have his mind wiped in exchange for the multi-million dollar paycheck of the title.

Throw an apathetic, indifferent John Woo, a bored listless Affleck, an underused, barely there Uma Thurman, and an unoriginal, limp screenplay by Dean Georgaris, and it’s easy to see why critics and moviegoers passed on "Paycheck" four years ago. With so little effort on display, it’s just as easy to imagine why no one involved will want "Paycheck" listed among their highlights when the time comes to look back on their careers in Hollywood.

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originally posted: 06/16/07 05:06:18
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell ok best i remember 3 stars
4/13/10 randy andy total bollocks 1 stars
2/05/10 Jeff Wilder John Woo and Phillip K Dick just don't mesh that well. 2 stars
10/12/08 Sugarfoot More apple proof that Woo sold out for the almightly dollar. 1 stars
3/20/08 matthew I liked it, can't understand the negative opinions 4 stars
7/17/07 Alexander Ben Affleck plays like a wooden doll. Just eyeing his paycheck. 2 stars
6/28/07 gr117 Crapola 2 stars
1/12/07 chris f great movie and pezmaker is just a dick 5 stars
9/23/05 pezmaker absolute shit. Great story, by a great author. Fucked by a crappy director. 1 stars
9/17/05 Naruto Total bullshit! Only low IQ people will like such cinmatic toxic waste 1 stars
8/11/05 ES Once again we see you don't have to use logic to get a time travel/vision movie made= bad 2 stars
6/27/05 TMc Very enjoyable, keeps you guessing! 4 stars
6/17/05 othree Needs more SciFi, less crappy casting 3 stars
6/02/05 Steve Newman Instantly forgetable, tame, unexciting and would not watch again 2 stars
6/01/05 Jiz Affleck was a bad choice, the ending fight scenes prove it. Good concept, poor execution. 3 stars
4/26/05 tatum Dick's dense prose reduced to a series of explosions and stunts 3 stars
4/25/05 Quigley a good sci-fi story, but Woo must've hallucinated when casting began. Affleck? no way, man! 4 stars
3/11/05 The Sorrow Great writting gone unappreciated... 4 stars
2/20/05 Chimaera Ben afflecks best performance. Of course that's not saying much. 4 stars
12/05/04 Kristina Williams Uma's the only thing worth watching. 2 stars
9/27/04 Archanist_101 Damn bloody PG-13 rating... Oh well 4 stars
9/17/04 Stanley Dorvil Brilliant masterpiece. A story about a reverse-engineer who reverse-engineered the future! 5 stars
8/14/04 slip Better than Most of Aflleck's films,I had to put the pieces together , which in these last 4 stars
7/04/04 Nobody Almost as good as minority report and for once Ben's acting doesn't suck! 5 stars
7/01/04 "Meth Lab" for Dummies. Its NOT Woo's fault, the American studios dont let him right his own stuff check your self! 4 stars
6/14/04 Lord Jiggy Better than you've heard...still has problems, but enjoyable until the last 10 minutes 4 stars
6/09/04 vasilis No good 2 stars
6/08/04 Ron Miller Afflecks best 4 stars
5/31/04 John Poo's "Arse/Off" This may not be Woo's best film or may not have had violence, but it's a fun film! 4 stars
5/31/04 Troy Kuprash Great Flick 5 stars
5/24/04 Mickey With A C Car cases? Ben Affleck? Poor P.K. Dick 1 stars
5/23/04 Jackie Thomas Fun,I love the look of the film 4 stars
5/13/04  Shaun Rose Fun movie 4 stars
5/02/04 CasperTheWeapon woo owns. dick owns. why did this film suck so much ass? 2 stars
3/20/04 kari dennis very bad 2 stars
3/02/04 long river one of the best moives in 2003 4 stars
1/31/04 Littlepurch For a Ben Affleck film it was actually quite clever. 4 stars
1/19/04 Saj Khan Pathetic. Is Ben Affleck trying to kill his carrer?! 1 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Badly choreographed action scenes; Affleck needs some acting lessons. 1 stars
1/10/04 Black Leather Jacket Doesn't anyone enjoy Action Films anymore w/o getting a bad tomato? 5 stars
1/08/04 malcolm a summer popcorn movie released in the middle of winter 3 stars
1/07/04 KingNeutron Great ride, Affleck totally redeemed fromGigli. Casting Joe Morton from T2 was a nice touch 5 stars
1/06/04 Chris I enjoy myself, nothing spectular but creative and entertaining. 4 stars
1/03/04 bob get rid of Ben and get someone else 3 stars
1/02/04 Chow Yun Fatt "You will not believe how Woo managed to get a dove into the movie." I really like this. 5 stars
1/01/04 Admiral Piet Couldnt they have put anyone else beside BenLo in this? Jim Varney? anyone? 3 stars
12/31/03 broken shadow great action movie although it was too predictable... 4 stars
12/30/03 Jin John Woo=Sucks 1 stars
12/28/03 Dave ANYTHING by John Woo deserves nothing more than 2 stars. 1 stars
12/26/03 Uncle Salty Should've been named Reality Check, as in why are movies this bad still being produced... 1 stars
12/26/03 Brian interesting how a movie about predicting the future was so...predictable... 3 stars
12/26/03 Black Leather Jacket Great Action Film! Why can't people just have fun for a change 5 stars
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  25-Dec-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-May-2004



Directed by
  John Woo

Written by
  Dean Georgaris

  Ben Affleck
  Uma Thurman
  Aaron Eckhart
  Colm Feore
  Paul Giamatti
  Kathryn Morris

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