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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 Erik Childress

"A New Genre Is Born! DICKWOO!"
3 stars

Paycheck is the kind of film that falls into the category of “watchable dumb.” It has a lot of the elements that I enjoy with my escapist fun: science-fiction, action, puzzles and time paradoxes. With John Woo at the helm and a premise based (again) on a Philip K. Dick short story, a fun ride seemed, at least, in the cards. Promising at first and only sporadically interesting in the long run, Paycheck, if remembered at all, will only be for how derivative the memory of these two great masters of their fields has become.

This rendition begins in a place where I’d like to see a movie someday continue. Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is an electronics expert hired by big companies to replicate or outdo the latest innovations of rivals at trade shows. After kept in isolation for months at a time, his memory of the project is then erased to ensure plausible deniability of corporate espionage.

Jimmy Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart) is the company head and Michael’s old college buddy. He’s got a new assignment that will require three years of his life, spent and wiped, but with a paycheck north of $90 million waiting on the other end. After introduced to a suitcase right out of Pulp Fiction and Rachel (Uma Thurman from…Pulp Fiction), the biologist that he will fall in love with, Michael finishes the job to discover he’s forfeited his stock shares and left with 20 everyday objects that he apparently mailed to himself.

Becoming apparent rather quickly that these items are unusually handy in a pinch (think of the brilliant mall sequence in Minority Report), Jennings (and the audience) grasps what he’s been working on all this time. With the feds on his trail and the company willing to give him up for dead, the hunt of the chase is on with a mystery inside an enigma to be solved and all the Dicksian Woo-hah to go along with it. That we’ve all seen before.

With over 100 works to his credit, it’s probably unfair to blame Dick for a Stephen King-like habit of repeating his themes and plot devices. But Hollywood knows how to run good ideas into the ground and without filmmakers like Ridley Scott, Paul Verhoeven or Steven Spielberg at the helm, the material gets old right quick. Combine Dick’s future-seers (Minority Report), memory wipes (Total Recall, Impostor) and man-on-the-run concoctions (Minority Report, Total Recall, Impostor) with Woo’s slow-motion, gun face-offs (no less than two) and, believe it or not, doves, and you’ll be asking for a little peanut butter with your chocolate.

You will not believe how Woo managed to get a dove into the movie. It’s the sort of out-of-place head-smacker that could be comfortably explained as self-parody, but I don’t trust the film’s script enough to be headed for satire. Although Eckhart’s picture under the headline of a future newspaper is a priceless laugh-getter. His meglomaniacal announcement of “I AM THE FUTURE” is also one to treasure, having all the menace of American Splendor’s Toby Radloff trying to threaten Darth Vader. Poor Paul Giamatti (deserving of an Oscar nomination for playing Splendor’s Harvey Pekar in 2003) is reduced to another bumbling sidekick who is completely forgotten about for the whole middle of the film.

Paycheck has enough to distract you from its many absurdities. Until you leave the theater, at least. Woo stages another pretty remarkable motorcycle chase and both Affleck and Thurman get to Daredevil and Kill Bill all over again in the nicely-handled climax. You get the sense though how much Woo misses his ballet of bullets concoctions since putting puzzles together ain’t his specialty. It’s blowing them apart.

Paycheck succeeds where Paramount’s last dumb sci-fi thriller, Timeline, couldn’t. It doesn’t bore. It’s nearly every bit as stupid, failing to capitalize on any of the intriguing ideas it brings forth either inventively or philosophically. “If you see your future, you have no future,” Jennings says at one point; without the manic certainty that Doc Brown expressed over a decade ago. I can already see the future and tons of critics quipping at how they wish they could have their own memory wiped of the experience. For me, it’s already forgettable enough to be gone once the credits roll.

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originally posted: 12/25/03 16:55:50
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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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