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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Science Fiction > Paycheck (Widescreen)

Paycheck (Widescreen)


Picture: B+     Sound: B     Extras: C     Film: C



Philip K. Dick has been brought to the big screen many times, but now in an A-level film for the third time, with the previous two high profile adaptations being poles apart.  Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is as classic as it comes when it involves Science Fiction and the capabilities of celluloid to embrace the genre.  As for Minority Report, Spielberg had no sense of what he was working with and instead created a world that was far from futuristic or for that matter interesting. 


Minority Report and Paycheck both involve an interesting concept that deals with time and time travel, but the way that the material is handled is the problem.  Director John Woo (after coming off one of his finer films Windtalkers, which you can read more about at http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=206&filter=W

elsewhere on this site) takes on the project with mixed results.  Part of the problem lies within the casting for the film.  As much as I like Uma Thurman, she was completely misused within this film, which after watching Kill Bill Vol.1 and Vol.2 I think audiences are much more aware of her capabilities.  Here she is floating through the material, mostly because she could probably care less anyway.  Then there’s Ben Affleck…need I say more?  Why is he being used as a macho/action hero all of a sudden?  Gigli, Daredevil, and now this? 


Ok, so the casting is a bit of a problem, but not totally detrimental.  However, let’s focus on the story a bit more.  The premise to Paycheck is that Michael Jennings (Affleck) is paid big money to steal top-secret projects because he is a wizard computer engineer.  He steals the designs from these projects and afterwards they wipe away his short-term memory so that he cannot remember what he did anyway.  His new project is a huge one…a three year assignment, which will give him a final paycheck that he can live off forever.  One problem though emerges when Jennings comes back from his memory wipe he finds out that he somehow forfeited all his earnings!  Why would he do this?  Or did he


We learn what is going on as Jennings does, but as we go along and realize what has happened Jennings life is in danger and he must flee for his life with the only help coming from a scientist (Thurman).  The question is whether his future is already written or did he change that future already for himself?  All he has is an envelope of material, but somehow each of the items within helps his situation as he goes along, did he place those items in there on purpose? 


The premise is somewhat flawed to an extent, but even if we give ourselves over to the material, it just seems like the film never knows if it wants to deal on an action level, a thriller level, or just deal with the science of things.  A director like John Woo is better at handling action and while this attempt to delve into a different genre is respectable, it might be better for him to stick with the things he is better at. 


Jeffrey L. Kimball’s camerawork can be seen quite well with Paramount’s DVD displaying the film in its original 2.35 X 1 scope anamorphic transfer.  Kimball is a regular on Woo’s American films working on both Mission Impossible II and Windtalkers.  He is very literate when it comes to various lighting schemes and creating a mood that fits the film, but for this film I didn’t think that it matched the material.  If you compare once again the lighting scheme from Blade Runner to Minority Report you get a huge contrast in how the world of the future was handled.  Ridley Scott chose a darker look, while Spielberg went for a much brighter, light blowing out the windows type of look.  This was Spielberg going back to scope filmmaking and also shot the film in Super 35, which created more grain than needed!  Going back to Paycheck, this film is shot somewhere between the dark recesses of Blade Runner and the bright washed out look of Minority Report. The DVD captures the look of the film well, with excellent color definition and detail. 


As with almost all Paramount DVD’s the only audio option is Dolby Digital 5.1, which is too muted and even Minority Report had the DTS option, which upgraded the sound design and allowed for a more sonic experience, which this film could have benefited greatly from.  There are two commentary tracks provided as well, one from John Woo and the other from screenwriter Dean Georgaris, who attempts to explain how he handled Dick’s material to begin with.  I have always felt that a writer undermines themselves when they must explain why they did what they did. 


A few extras are included such as a featurette on the stunts and designing the futuristic look of the film, which I argue did not work anyway.  There are also a couple extra scenes/deleted scenes, which were wisely taken out of the film.  Overall, nothing too special here, but then again the film is only so-so to begin with, so it’s not begging for much in terms of extras anyway.


I would have to say that most will find Paycheck to be a mixed bag.  Even though the overall production is pretty fine and the directing is good, this is just not the type of film for these people to be involved with.  It just did not work from a formula standpoint.  Part of being a talented director or actor/actress is picking roles that are designed for you and your potential, instead of trying to make the material work for you.  These are very skilled people, but they just clashed with this Genre and we had to all sit there and watch the destruction right in front of us.



-   Nate Goss


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