Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
Paycheck is one of those good Sci-Fi movies that totally misses the mark. A brilliant idea that is doomed by the lackluster performances of decent actors and shoddy directorial work by a great director. I loved the story but hated the execution.
I'm no fan of Ben Affleck, but I don't hate him or drag his personal life into my opinion of him as an actor. I've liked him in most of the films I've seen him in. I have never seen Uma Thurman give a bad performance, and I loved her so much in Kill Bill that my already positive opinion of her has increased significantly. And except for Broken Arrow, his first American offering, I have loved every film John Woo has ever made and consider his unique style and thematic elements to be some of the best archetypes of the action film genre.
Philip K. Dick stories have, in the past, been brought to the screen with great success by tier 1 directors such as Ridley Scott (Bladerunner) and Lord Spielberg (Minority Report.) The story for Paycheck holds all the promise of it's predecessors. Michael Jennings is a highly sought after reverse-engineer who has no issues with copying technological breakthroughs for unscrupulous companies and then having all memory of the work he does erased from his brain - if the paycheck is good. (oddly enough the "paycheck" he receives at the beginning of the film for creating a completely holographic display monitor is insanely low) His current assignment is will require a 3 year commitment and will pay $90 million. He takes the job and completes it but for some reason (that I never did understand) in lieu of the $90 million payday he instead takes custody of an envelope that contains 19 clues he will need to figure out what he did for the last 3 years and destroy whatever "it" is he created. Sounds cool right?
It is! The idea that is. The movie unfortunately is not that cool. The "future" special effects are mediocre, the action is boring and unimaginative, and the acting is only slightly better than an Ed Wood film. Let's break this down into it's three failures:
I've written enough here. All in all this movie was a two star film at best that earned an extra star from me just because it's a Sci-Fi movie and I applaud any effort to bring more Sci-Fi to the screen. Some night if you're drunk and alone it might be worth catching on HBO or something.