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I can accept almost any premise in a movie as long as there is some internal consistency to the plot. I can accept that you can wipe out part of a person's memory, that you could design and build a machine that predicts the future. I can even accept something unbelievably stupid like cooling your Future-Prediction Machine with liquid hydrogen. Remember the Hindenburg. But I can't accept that a Boston fan would allow someone to wipe his memory of the Red Sox competing in the baseball playoffs! I have my limits. This fact which comes out quite early in Paycheck should have warned me that this movie would crash and burn before the end.
Paycheck is the latest movie by the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood, Philip K. Dick. He wrote the stories on which Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, Minority Report and Paycheck were based. Too bad he's been dead for 20 years. Anyway, Paycheck is quite similar in some ways to the much more satisfying Minority Report. In Paycheck, an engineering genius (Ben Affleck) makes his living by developing high-tech products for shady multinational corporations. One such corporation is AllCom whose president (Aaron Eckhart) and VP for R&D (Colm Feore) both carry guns. Anyway, the twist is that after Affleck is finished a contract, his memory is selectively wiped so that he remembers nothing about the job. All is well as long as the memory wiping is done by his sidekick, Shorty (Paul Giamatti). But one day Affleck wakes up to find that everyone is out to kill him for whatever it was he did on his last job which he can't remember. Among the things he can't remember is having Uma Thurman (as a Biologist) as his girlfriend. OK, there are two things I can't accept about this movie!
Paycheck starts off pretty well. It has a cool premise thanks to Philip K. Dick but before long I started to get a sinking feeling. None of it made any sense and it just got worse and worse. Once I got to the hydrogen cooling thing, I was ready to accept it because everything else was much more unbelievable. For instance, Uma Thurman, who is playing a PhD in Biology, suddenly morphs into her killer-for-hire character from Kill Bill. Otherwise, she is the best thing in Paycheck. She manages to make her character almost two dimensional. The others are not so lucky. Eckhart and Feore are stuck with their one-dimensional bad-guy characters. Eckhart (Your Friends and Neighbors, Erin Brockovich) deserves better than this. Colm Feore is well known in Canada for playing famous dead guys such as Pierre Trudeau and Glenn Gould, but plays heavies in Hollywood. Giamatti makes an effort but being the sidekick is a thankless part. At least, he beats the sidekick curse and survives to the end of the movie. But the worst thing about Paycheck is its star. Ben Affleck actually reduces the dimensionality of his character. Ben, Ben, Ben. What has happened to you since Good Will Hunting? I loved him in that movie. But he has lost it and he seems completely lost in Paycheck.
is the director, John Woo. OK, I should say at this point that Woo is
known as the king of action movies. But since he started making Hollywood movies
in 1993, he has made, Hard Target,
Broken Arrow, Face/Off,
Mission Impossible II, Windtalkers
and Paycheck. The only one of these that I consider good
So maybe Woo isn't that good. Anyway, I'd wait and rent Paycheck.
Or maybe rent Minority