Review by Gordon Justesen
Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore, Joe Morton,
Michael C. Hall
Director: John Woo
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: May 18, 2004
you believe in second chances?”
tell you the truth…I do.”
On a side note: the
quote above has a bit of relevant meaning to Ben Affleck’s career. After
enduring, and surviving the whole Gigli
disaster, Paycheck has definitely put
Affleck back on track. I’m one of few who has always defended the Mallrats
superstar, and am happy to see that he’s been resurrected from the ashes
of what is indeed his Battlefield Earth.
Now, onto the review…
It has now occurred
to me that no matter what the genre, director John Woo can handle anything with
flying colors, while at the same time adding on a few signature action
sequences. He had just tried his hand at the war movie with the highly charged
and much underrated Windtalkers, and
now Woo tries his hand with the sci-fi genre with Paycheck, and the result is yet another successful piece of visually
stunning action packed entertainment from the master moviemaker.
Adapted from the
story by legendary sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick (Minority Report), the story is set in the not-too-distant-future.
The story’s centerpiece is that of pure cutthroat competition between
techno-corporations looking to create the next big piece of hardware, or at
least learning of how to outdo a competitor’s product. If a company is in dire
need of such, Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is the man they turn to.
Jennings is an
expert reverse engineer. He is hired by software companies to take a rival’s
product, break down the bare essentials by working backwards, and then
reassembles them in the form of something new and improved that the companies
can expect big bank from. Each job takes about at least two to three months,
after which he is paid very highly for his work, which also requires parts of
his memory to be wiped out once his job is complete, just to ensure that his
secrets won’t be revealed to anyone.
big job op comes at request of Jimmy Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), head of a
big-time software manufacturer and a former college acquaintance. The assignment
is considered top secret, though Jimmy assures Michael that a million plus
payday awaits him if he accepts, one that will result in him being set for the
rest of his life. Of course, as anyone would, he accepts.
Once his memory his
erased, Michael is astonished to discover two things. One, three years have
passed since he first began his assignment, and two, he’s just had 94 million
dollars transferred to his account. All is ever so well for Jennings, until he
visits the bank and is stunned when he learns that he canceled his shares of the
money, only to instead receive an envelope containing 19 individual items, none
of which resembling a cent in cash. Not too long after finding this out,
Jennings discovers that he is a wanted man, as he is being pursued by both
assassins and the FBI.
Jennings is running for his life, while at the same time trying to piece
together why he sent himself the mysterious envelope of items, why the very
people he was working for want him dead, and most importantly, what kind of work
was he involved with. He eventually comes into contact with Dr. Rachel Porter
(Uma Thurman), a biologist for the company Jennings was helping. The two were
also in love, something that Jennings doesn’t even recollect.
The last two thirds
of the movie is definitive John Woo, consisting of two big sequences. The first
consists of Jennings using one of his secret items, a key to a BMW bike, leading
his enemies on a high speed chase. Woo is obviously a fan of this sort of
motorcycle. If I’m not mistaken, it looks like the very same model Tom Cruise
used in Woo’s M: I-2.
The second is a big
climatic standoff in the very laboratory where Jennings’ secret work was
conducted. As he discovers the work he conducted will bring upon catastrophic
repercussions, Jennings vows to destroy every bit of the technology. This
sequence includes the vintage Woo trademarks, plenty of carefully choreographed
fights, shootouts, and pivotal slow motion shots. In other words, a pivotal
example of highly mastered, high-octane action filmmaking.
Although the action
is a big part of Paycheck, perhaps the
biggest factor in the movie is very genius premise. One shouldn’t go into this movie expecting a no-brainer. The
story is a terrifically convoluted one which will require one to think, a pure
rarity in the realm of action or sci-fi. The heart of the story’s mystery has
to do with time travel, and I’ve steered clear of big plot points simply as a
means of leaving you to discover.
explosive qualities at every angle, such as story, action, look and performance,
Paycheck is the pure equivalence of
what I consider to be true popcorn entertainment, only this time with something
of a brain inside its head, which can’t always hurt.
Woo’s first choice for casting the lead was none other than Ben’s pal Matt
Damon. Damon suggested that Ben be chosen to play since he had already endured a
similar role in The Bourne Identity.
The end choice paid off, indeed.
John Woo’s strong
sense of visual style is once again conveyed in Paramount’s much incredible
anamorphic presentation. For its entirety, the visual style is displayed in
supreme detail, with sharp as a blade imagery to go along, as well as vibrant
colors at their most complete. Another big factor in the movie are the lavish
set designs (i.e. the laboratory), and the numerous visual effect shots which
look downright incredible. One of the year’s best visual offerings.
Any highly charged
action/sci-fi thrill ride is bound to payoff in the audio field. As long as John
Woo is the director…forget it—the ride is being brought to your living room.
The 5.1 mix is as dynamic and high powered as anything you could expect from a
single DVD presentation. The level
of range here is as good as it gets, as the blending together of dialogue,
action, music score, and set design pieces add up to mind blowing two hours.
Gets the highest marks, indeed, and has a terrific chance of being remembered at
the next DMC Awards.
their Special Collector’s Edition quality to full effect on this release. To
start of with, there are two commentary tracks, one with John Woo and the second
with screenwriter Dean Georgaris. Also featured are two well done featurettes;
“Paycheck: Designing the Future” and “Tempting Fate: The Stunts of
Paycheck”. Lastly, there are 7 deleted and extended scenes, as well as bonus