Dir: John Woo
Star: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore
Cert / Year: 12A - PG13 / 2003
Format: DVD R2

Michael Jennings is a reverse engineer. He takes a product disassembles it and produces an improved clone for his clients. He then has his memory wiped so his clients can't be caught for this industrial espionage. He has just woken up from his final job in which he traded three years of his life in return for a massive paycheck. Things don't go to plan however when he goes to collect his money only to find he apparently signed it away in return for an envelope of useless items. People are suddenly trying to kill him and he has no memory why, but mysteriously the contents of the envelope seem to be the only things that are keeping him alive.

It has to be said that director John Woo has yet to recapture his form since leaving Hong Kong to move to Hollywood. Yes he has had a few successful films like Face Off and Broken Arrow, but has been plagued with overuse CGI and silly stunts. This culminated in remarkably stupid Mission Impossible 2 where credibility was jettisoned in favor of eye candy. Therefore I was not holding out much hope for this film that was marketed as a techno thriller.

Well how wrong were my first impressions. Firstly this isn't a Mission Impossible techno thriller, as the trailer would have you believe, but an out and out sci-fi movie in the mold of Minority Report. It also seems John Woo has found his long missing touch delivering a film with both believable action and a complex story. In fact Paycheck is the best film he has made for quite a while, with plenty of stunning action combining nicely with the cohesive intelligent narrative.

If the whole man on the run from an unknown future sounds a little like Minority Report then you would be correct, the plots are rather the same. This is explained by the fact that they are both based upon a short story by Philip K Dick (although not by the fact that screenplay writer Dean Georgaris was also responsible for the pitiful Tomb Raider 2). As seems normal for all films based on the work of this author the plot is used to deliver a techno chase containing many action set pieces, and while it may not be as slick (or as blued coloured) as Minority Report it is just as entertaining.

John Woo works wonders with the action. The mandatory bike chase is brilliant. No stupid CGI impossi-stunts have been used, just good old-fashioned stunt riding and excellent direction. The same can be said for the final fight that contains Uma Thurman kicking ass in a far more convincing way than she ever did in Kill Bill. Overall the direction is first rate with nicely flowing action and just the right amount of time taken to deliver the story (although we do get one pointless repetition in case we were stupid enough to lose the plot).

Ben Affleck has been an actor that in the past I have been pretty critical of, after all he still hasn't been forgiven for his poor Jack Ryan in Sum of all Fears, but it must be said he is very good here. For a change he actually gets into the character and the result is remarkably less wooden than usual. If he carries on like this he may be in my good books. Uma Thurman nowadays is begining to look dog rough, so I can't say she is perfect for this role. However she does do very well in the action scenes and is likeable enough. A special mention must be made of Paul Giamatti who puts his all into a comic sidekick roll even though he is criminally under used.

Paycheck is a very good sci-fi thriller. Ok so it's not all that original but the fast pace and stunning action makes up for it. The ending does get itself into a bit of mess plot wise (just why do they mend the machine they have come to destroy) but it just about keeps things going to the end. There is fun trying to second guess the story and by three quarters of the way through you may well be one step ahead of the plot but at least it gives you something to think about. Just like Equilibrium did last year, Paycheck delivers an excellently entertaining slice of derivative fun.


Remember the future.


Jimmy Rethrick: And what were you doing during all of this?
Wolfe: I was eating pie.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic High grade picture quality.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Like it, from blasts of wind to bike chases this is good stuff.
Features 12 page colour booklet
Audio commentary from John Woo
Audio commentary from Dean Georgaris
Deleted scene / alternative ending
2 making-of featurettes
Verdict Great transfer and a few quality extras make for a perfectly acceptable disc.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home