don't remember what I did for the last three years"
Michael Jennings (Affleck) is the world's best reverse engineer. His job
is to figure out how competitor's products work and then improve on them for
his client to then dominate the market with a superior version. There is one
catch; he has to have his memory of everything he has done wiped to pick up
his paycheck. Old friend James Rethrick (Eckhart) offers him a job that will
pay enough that he will never have to worry about money again but it will
mean losing three years of his life. Jennings decides to take the job but
when he has finished he awakes to find he has forfeited his huge paycheck
for twenty personal items and he is being pursued by men who want to kill
Ben Affleck returns to action to try and re-ignite his once
glittering career but Paycheck is not the film to do it.
Based on a short story by science fiction guru Phillip K. Dick
and directed by Hong Kong action maestro John Woo, the odds were good but
Affleck seems to have caught both of them on a bad day.
The once king of the action genre John Woo has switched to autopilot
now he has moved to Hollywood. His style is becoming all too predictable and
samey, with hardly an original shot or sequence gracing his films since he
made the move. Where excitement used to greet a Woo action fest, now he just
seems to blend into the crowd. He'll be working with Steven Seagal and DMX
next on one of those Rap-Fu movies, where has your passion gone John? The
story is nothing new either. The future predictions of 'Minority Report',
the technological advances of 'Blade Runner' and the all out action and memory
loss of 'Total Recall' combine to give us a story that just about has the
ability to entertain.
Affleck's performance is fine, as we know he can do action
but his character isn't developed enough to let his acting ability, yes he
does have some (watch Chasing Amy), shine through. This is Affleck on autopilot,
doing enough to entertain and get the job done, nothing more. You have to
wonder why Uma Thurman is in the movie however. We all know that she is a
great character actress and has just turned her talents to action but here
she is just the damsel in distress and the beauty to be dragged along on the
adventure. You expect more from her talent.
The support is very underdeveloped. Aaron Eckhart's power hungry
technology tycoon is nothing new and has far too little screen time for you
to start to hate him or discover his true motivations. The always superb Paul
Giamatti is criminally underused and the talented Joe Morton and Michael C.
Hall are just typical FBI agents.
What Paycheck does have going for it is its action sequences,
which bare many Woo trademarks like excessive slow motion and some excellent
use of tracking cameras. While they may not be the most original scenes in
John Woo's repertoire, the bike chase and finale are very exciting and make
the film worth watching.
Paycheck is brainless entertainment with a slight hint of plot.
It does little to return either John Woo or Ben Affleck to the big league
but it is still enjoyable all the same.
Presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen with a Dolby Digital
5.1 surround soundtrack, this is an excellent transfer. The picture quality
is sharp throughout with no pixelation, even during John Woo's trademark slow
motion scenes. The sound quality is also first rate, especial during the energetic
motorcycle chase sequence and the explosive finale.
Paycheck: Designing the Future (18.17 mins)
Director John Woo and stars Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Colm
Feore and Paul Giamatti take you behind the scenes of the Phillip K. Dick
thriller. With footage from the Canadian shoot and insights from producer
Terence Chang, production designer William Sandell and visual effects supervisor
Gregory L. McMurry about the look and feel of the film, this featurette exposes
the secrets behind the making of Paycheck.
Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck (16.49 mins)
Stunt Coordinator Greg Smrz takes you behind the scenes of three of the movie's
main action set pieces, the motorcycle chase, the subway station and the hydroponic
garden. Director John Woo and stars Ben Affleck and Paul Giamatti talk about
the film's action and the style in which fights and stunts realised. The featurette
includes some split screen images to contrast the storyboards, rehearsals
and actual filming.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (9.59 mins)
Entitled "Rachel talks to Sarah Rethrick", "Leaving in a limousine", "Jennings
meets Stevens", "Extracting Rachel's memories", "Rethrick confronts Jennings"
and "FBI team monitors Jennings and Rachel", some of these scenes are quite
interesting especially the Rachel's memories scene. A commentary track on
why these scenes were cut would have been nice however.
Alternative Ending (1.58 mins)
The original ending to the film, which is far too sugary sweet and no way
as good as, the one used in the final cut.
Commentary by director John Woo
The energetic filmmaker gives an equally energetic commentary that reveals
how involved he is very every aspect of his movies. Even though he is not
a great Sci-Fi fan and has never read a Phillip K. Dick novel, the Hong Kong
director reveals how he likes to concentrate on the human element of the story
as the expense of large visual effects set pieces. He also discusses how he
wanted to make this film like an old Hollywood movie, with a heavy influence
from Alfred Hitchcock.
Commentary by Screenwriter Dean Georgoris
It is always interesting to hear from a screenwriter and Dean Georgoris provides
a very informative commentary about the writing process. He reveals the differences
between each of his drafts in references to the scenes unfolding on screen
and he offers a fascinating insight into how the script continues to develop
even while shooting is taking place.
DreamWorks SKG and Paramount have done a decent job with this
DVD. The featurette are suitably informative with not as much backslapping
as your usual publicity programme and the inclusion of two commentary tracks
only adds to the value. This makes the DVD well worth a rent or a purchase
for Woo and Affleck fans.