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Michael Jennings is a genius who's hired – and paid handsomely – by high-tech firms to work on highly sensitive projects, after which his short-term memory is erased so he's incapable of breaching security. But at the end of a three-year job, he's told he isn't getting a paycheck and instead receives a mysterious envelope. In it are clues he must piece together to find out why he wasn't paid – and why he's now in hot water.
This one's finally starting to click for me a little. Woo's oft-stated love of Hitchcock manifests here with a literal bag full of setups to pay off. It's basically an excuse to move from one puzzle scenario to the next, at its best sort of a feature-length version of the mall chase in MINORITY REPORT. My main issue with it still stands, though: it looks cheap, like it was shot in a convention center in Vancouver or something, and I still think the editing is frequently arrhythmic by Woo's standards, cut for narrative clarity rather than visceral impact. But it's packed with trademark grace notes like a bead of sweat bouncing off a bullet in slow motion, or those patented spontaneous releases of kinetic energy like a guy getting launched into the air by an errant shotgun blast.
A slick and twisty sci-fi thriller, John Woo's "Paycheck" entertains despite never quite fulfilling the promise of its premise. A muscular, somewhat mind-bending future tale, Woo's film makes for a swift and solid genre experience.
Built around Ben Affleck's Michael Jennings, the film follows as a perilous job assignment puts Jennings' life, not to mention the fate of the world, in jeopardy. Future-reading technology, erased memories, and other science fiction skullduggery fill out a plot that compels. The story may be more set-up than fully explored narrative, but it clicks regardless of its empty center.
Woo's direction pops with energy, and the production gleams with a shiny aesthetic exterior. Action beats propel the film forward; they are muscular, lean, and…
Dumber than a bag of rocks, and easily the weakest of John Woo’s American films, but contains a bunch of indelible images (e.g. Uma Thurman impostor reflected in the lid of creamer pot) and enough Hitchcock-isms to make Brian De Palma shit his pants.
Have no idea why this is so disliked. It's a perfectly fine cheap riff on Minority Report (another Philip K. Dick adaptation that was released a year and a half earlier). The genre is an odd fit for John Woo (he looks backward, not forward, and thus is not a natural for sci-fi), but he adds a privileged moment here or there and the car chase has a tangible sense of speed. Ben Affleck makes a terrific empty suit and watching him figure out his bag of tricks is a lot of fun. Paul Giamatti comes and goes too easily, the city is clearly Vancouver and not Seattle and I have no idea what's going on with Uma Thurman, but…
Despite its story being both its greatest strength and greatest weakness, Paycheck is a sleek-looking, thrilling, and highly enjoyable sci-fi action thriller with slick, stylish, and energetic direction from John Woo, entertaining action sequences, strong performances from a great cast, an intriguing premise, and snappy pacing.
Me watching this movie:
"I don't quite get what's going-- ohhhhh..."
"Hey, its Dexter!"
"Wait, what? Oh, now I get it...."
"Hold on, what in the fuck?!"
"Oh, its that thing he had and that other thing he had and next he'll use that other thing he has. "
*Predicts rest of plot with 90% accuracy*
*Calls friend and verbally assaults him for recommending this film*
I actually quite enjoyed this film. Mystery, action, and sci-fi
Paycheck might be best regarded as the Once a Thief moment of his Hollywood career - that is to say, it's a detour into lighter, more mainstream material than his usual action fare. Released in 1991, Once a Thief was a fairly light-hearted caper with a romantic subplot and European locations: mostly a far cry from Woo's heroic bloodshed films. Paycheck is a flashy sci-fi mystery which departs significantly from his previous US work.
Philip K. Dick's story has an intriguing premise which Woo sometimes captures, but the film has numerous major problems. Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman have no chemistry to speak of, the plot has some big implausibilities, and the project doesn't afford Woo enough opportunities to do what he is best at: action. Paycheck brought an end to the Hong Kong legend's time as a Hollywood director, in somewhat ingnominious fashion.
on a foundation of dull plotting, listless action and poor judgment in casting, the film ended woo's hollywood career on a sour note, being largely an homage to thrillers of old, it fails to wash off the stench of conventionality, a taxing bore
Wonderfully terrible at times, like any time Ben Affleck and Paul Giamatti are trying really hard to seem like pals, but it's mostly a by the numbers dumb studio sci-fi.
"p.s. the red sox lost" i feel like i lost by wasting my time viewing this...
The first half-hour is kinda good. When it's trotting along, it fits perfectly in the post-millennium marxist sci-fi. The commodification of humans by corporate conglomerates would bode well double-billed with Resident Evil or Demonlover. But once it shifts into a psychological thriller, it falls the fuck apart. It's central thesis is stupid. Like, beyond belief. And not necessarily in content but in execution. Knowing the future makes it inevitable, but Affleck survives because of the machine he intends to destroy. Knowledge is dangerous, except when it saves your life. At the same time, Woo shows off his auteur mayhem filtered through a cold blue, angular environment perfectly suited for PKD.
Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is a top-notch reverse engineer. Corporations pay him to crack the secrets of their competitors' products. When the job is done, he has his memory of it erased. Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), head of a company called Allcom, hires Jennings to reverse-engineer a secret government device. After the job, Jennings wakes from the memory erasure to find himself being chased by various agencies. He soon realizes that the fate of the entire world may be in his hands.
This movie came out in 2003, but really feels like 1991 for some reason.
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