Paycheck (2003) [Blu-ray]
|Genre(s): Action / Mystery / Science Fiction|
|Paramount || PG13 - 118 minutes - $29.99 || May 19, 2009|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-05-09|
Writer(s): Philip K. Dick (short story); Dean Geogaris (screenplay)
Cast: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti
Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2003
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ORIGINAL DVD REVIEW:
Paycheck is about Michael Jennings (Ben 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 (Aaron 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 (Uma 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, The Pledge, The Missing and, of course, The Dark Knight. 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.
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 are rather 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 b
een 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 ("Tempting Fate") 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.
There are 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. Also, the Blu-ray comes with a bookmark feature. **Blu-ray Exclusive**
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
I must admit, the 1080p high-def video was actually pretty good, especially compared to other, even recent, catalogue titles. Sure, some of the skin tones look a bit waxy at times, but that’s more the style as originally intended or as seen on DVD than a poor transfer. Details were very good and I noticed little, if any, dust or scratches. Also, even darker scenes didn’t show that much noise, a definite plus in my book.
Not to be outdone, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track was equally impressive with clear dialogue, a robust score by John Powell and solid sound effects during the action sequences. I was pleased with the audio because no matter how silly the movie may be, at least I can enjoy it on my home theater system. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also available.
Admittedly, Paycheck isn’t that good of a movie and as Kevin Smith once joked, Affleck did it for the paycheck. However, I did enjoy some moments even if the plot isn’t that original and yet another Philip K. Dick cash-in. As for the Blu-ray, I thought both the picture and audio quality were great so for the few people who may have enjoyed this film, you’ll at least appreciate it, for others, it’ll just be more shelf filler with the rest of the catalogue titles studios are dumping onto the market.