Sunday, January 22, 2023


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 2003
Director: John Wood
Starring: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore, Joe Morton, Michael C. Hall, Peter Friedman, Kathryn Morris, Ivana Milicevic, Christopher Kennedy
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review
After "Windtalkers" failed to elicit much of a reaction both from audiences and reviewers, director John Woo bounced back with an adaption of Philip K. Dick's short story "Paycheck", adapted to the screen by Dean Georgaris, who at the time had also tackled the script for Jan de Bont's "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life". The narrative focuses on the life of Michael Jennings a gifted engineer who works on highly secretive projects for clients, who require extreme non disclosure agreements which manifests themselves in memory wipes he has to go through in order to comply with those. His college roommate James Rethrick offers him a highly lucrative contract, which will last for three years and will require for him to stay at Rethrick's company's campus. Three years later when we wakes up from the memory wipe, he realizes his compensation amounts to 92 million dollars, but when he goes to see his lawyer, he discovers he himself had given all the stocks/funds away just a week ago. He is given an envelope which contains an assortment of items, which he can't fathom what their purpose is. At the same time he is detained by the FBI, who accuses him of having access to classified documents. When the FBI tries to access his memories, they can't see a thing, but Michael eventually escapes and tries to make sense of what is taking place. At the same time, Rethrick and his team go on Michael's trail, which leads him to believe something more sinister occurred during the years of his employment.
"Paycheck" is an economical and prescient short story from Philip K. Dick, who after the successful adaptation of "Minority Report" in 2002 by Steven Spielberg, was once again a desirable intellectual property. For the most part the premise for the film is an interesting one, almost akin to an episode of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone", one that mixes concepts of time travel and corporate greed, but in the hands of John Woo it sadly devolves into a rather bland action film, one that lacks style and substance. Michael Jennings' pursuit of his life for the last three years, lacks a sense of urgency and despair, the same going for James Rethrick's corporate villainy, who more closely resembles cartoon type greed, as opposed to someone who wants to keep power and build upon it ("Succession" style). Uma Thurman's character in the meantime is even more perplexing: the same year she appeared in a complex (and stylized) film such as Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill Vol. 1", she managed to also appear on this film, where her character literally has no motivation, arc or purpose, aside of being Michael Jennings' "love interest". It's a film where John Woo tries to insert some of his stylistic trademarks (people pulling guns on each other at close range, doves flying in slow motion from doors in climatic moments), but sadly the film feels poorly shot and choreographed (the chase scenes are cringeworthy), and ultimately lifeless. With such a pulpy storyline, one would expect something more energetic and riveting, but the characters lack any real dimension (Paul Giamatti's best friend character is also completely wasted), and the film ultimately feels like it was shot on auto-pilot. The cinematography from Jeffrey L. Kimball fails to create a futuristic scenario, or for that matter, a particularly memorable one, whereas the production design from William Sandell and costumes from Erica Edell Phillips are simply forgettable. This is a film where all the pieces were there, but the director's point of view failed to marry the material and bring out something distinct. It's not offensively bad, but it is forgettable.