Paycheck (2003)

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Mystery / Science Fiction / Thriller
Paramount || PG13 - 115 minutes - $12.98 || May 18, 2004
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2004-09-11

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: John Woo
Writer(s): Philip K. Dick (short story), Dean Georgaris (screenplay)
Cast: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Joe Morton

Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2003

Supplemental Material:
  • Director Commentary
  • Writer Commentary
  • Paycheck - Designing the Future Featurette
  • Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

I'd actually say I enjoyed it more this time than at the theater. It seems more acceptable, in my eyes, as brainless entertainment to watch on a slow, boring night. No, it's not a great action film by any means, but it's still entertaining enough.

Original Review:
Question: What do you get when you mix the mind behind Minority Report and Blade Runner with The Bourne Identity and yet still with any John Woo action extravaganza (doves and all)?

Any guesses?

Paycheck is about Michael Jennings (Affleck), a man who has made a career of copying other people's work for other companies. What happens is, Jennings is hired by a rival company to replicate a certain item (for example, a computer monitor that can project 3-D images) and with just a few minor changes, gives that company a better advantage over the competition. For this, Jennings receives a hefty paycheck ($500,000+ in that example) and a complete memory wipe of what he had done during that period.

One day, Michael receives another job opportunity to work for an old buddy of his, Rethrick (Eckhart), who offers a job that will pay Michael eight figures if he completes. After a little hesitation, Michael takes it in part because of Rachel Porter (Thurman), a woman who works in the biology department in Rethrick's company. Three years later after his work was complete, Michael wakes up to find his memory of the job was gone (as per the agreement) and he's sent on his way home.

Upon coming home, Jennings finds out that his paycheck for this job came to more than $90 million, oh and that he had four weeks prior terminated the stock options and instead just sent himself an envelope containing 20 everyday items. To add to complications, he's picked up by the FBI who want to know what he did at Rethrick's company because the item Jennings apparently duplicated was originally designed by a former FBI scientist whose project was terminated (glad to see they're looking after the taxpayer money ;) ).

Like a jigsaw puzzle, Michael uses these items, (such as a can of hair spray, a lighter, janitor key, etc) to escape from situations and help him figure out what happened in those 3 years. Jennings gets help from the woman he has loved during his time with the project and together they use the clues to piece together what is happening to him.

Ben Affleck gives a good performance for this type of film. Although his character is bland for the most part, as an actor, he's passable as the action hero who can ride a motorcycle outracing men in cars who are shooting at him. Unlike many people on the Internet, I don't mind actors like Affleck or Reeves because they do their jobs fairly well if they're given a half-way decent script. Now, we'll have to see if Affleck deserves the big "paycheck" he receives per movie (so in that instance he could be considered overrated) but as an actor, I enjoy his performances and he has that "everyday guy" persona that works despite the extraordinary circumstances.

Aaron Eckhart has become on my favorite B/C-actors to come around in a while. He first got critical acclaim in Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich. He also has appeared in many supporting roles including Any Given Sunday, Nurse Betty, The Pledge and The Missing. In the past couple of years he's advanced to starring roles like Possession (a decent romantic dramedy) and The Core. And he also has one upcoming called Suspect Zero along side Carrie-Anne Moss and Ben Kingsley. While the Core and Possession were not box office successes (to say the least) he still gave good performance none-the-less. Having giving all this acclaim, his turn as a villain for Paycheck, was a mixed bag of good and bad. On the one hand, I felt he did not overplay the villain role too much but on the other hand, it wasn't anything (like the rest of the film) memorable.

Uma Thurman, coming off of her own critical acclaim in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (Volume 1), does an amiable job as the love interest to Affleck and to be honest, it wouldn't be fair to judge her performance in Paycheck with that of KB as these are two VERY different characters. But overall, she does a fine job with what she has (the same shortcomings as Affleck and Eckhart).

The supporting cast members for Paycheck include Paul Giamatti, Joe Morton and Colm Feore. All three of these actors have very recognizable faces but the average movie-goer probably are not familiar with their names. Giamatti plays Shorty, who's basically the assistant to Jennings (he's in charge of erasing Jennings' mind), Morton plays Dodge the FBI agent in charge of finding Jennings and finding his invention and Feore is Mr. Wolf, a legal expert for Rethrick's company and also their laundry-man who does all the dirty work. All of them do good jobs with minor roles that (for a change) do actually serve a purpose in this movie.

Director John Woo has had his share of hits and misses (critically it's no contest). The last movie I saw that he directed was 2002's Windtalkers starring Nicolas Cage (which was below average). Before that he had Mission: Impossible II which (at the time) I loved but upon subsequent viewings, I've come to hate (portions anyways). So, does Woo return to the form of his best work, Face/Off? No. While his direction of Paycheck is clean and quick (very good pacing), it suffers because of (mainly) the screenplay. The action scenes, while not original, are still entertaining to watch. And, of course, what would be a John Woo movie without his beloved doves?

There is one major thing I do appreciate that the screenwriter did do for this adaptation, and that was to keep the plot and characters honest. In so many action-thrillers, it's easy to have a character change his/her spots at the end so to "surprise" the audience. And perhaps it does, but when further examining other scenes, you find that that character would not have done such and such thing given the outcome. For Paycheck, I can't recall any dishonest switcheroos or anything of that sort (of course, then we get into the whole future prediction/Back to the Future thing that I really don't feel like explaining right now).

Paycheck, like in any other John Woo film, is nothing more than an over-the-top action flick that sets aside story and character (especially) for car explosions, car chases and doves flying in from nowhere. That said, Paycheck is still a good action, although (ironically) forgettable, flick.


The special features for a sci-fi/action was pretty lame, even for a John Woo movie. The two commentary tracks, the first from director Woo, the other from screenwriter Dean Georgaris were pretty technical and while they provided some insight into the making of the film (Woo mentions over and over and over that he wanted to emulate the style of Hitchcock), they weren't really that interesting to listen to. It probably would've been best to have the two together to bounce stories off each other.

The disc also comes with two standard featurettes: Paycheck: Designing the Future and Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck. The former was pretty interesting and had the usual cast interviews as they praise each other, but one tidbit that I didn't know was that orginally John Woo wanted Matt Damon for the part but Damon was off filming another movie (I assume that was The Bourne Supremacy) and apparently Damon (or somebody) recommended Affleck for the part. The rest of the featurette went over some storyboards or set design drawings and why they decided not to go for the regular science fiction look, which was because Woo was not keen on making a sci-fi picture. The other featurette was alright, but nothing to really blather on about. Again, there are interviews with the cast and crew and they say the usual stuff like Woo didn't want to use CGI, or Affleck did 90% of his own stunts in one of the scenes. They also go over a fewof the film's key sequences such as the motorcycle chase scene.

Lastly, there were several deleted scenes and extended scenes that were rightly cut from the film, although there was one that was interesting in which Rethrick (Eckhart) confronts Jennings (Affleck) in an alley where they trade verbal jousts. The scene itself was not needed in the final cut, but it was still neat to watch. Also included is an alternate ending where Jennings gets back the stolen diamond ring -- the kid pawned it off -- and presents to Porter (Thurman) for a marriage proposal.


The picture, of course, and the sound overall, was pretty good, although I think the depth could've been better. In any case, for what's there, all is solid with no noticeable defects.


Overall, this is the typical one disc release with an OK amount of special features but nothing -- ironically -- special about it. Anyways, since this is a Paramount release, you will no doubt be able to pick this up for $15 or less.