In the heady world of corporate politics and isolation of new technologies, Michael Jennings is a master. He works in what is called ‘Reverse Engineering’; where a new product is taken and stripped back to its basic components and re-engineered to be even better than before. The fact that it gets done by rival companies on new competition’s products kinda makes it a little bit illegal too.
Enter the 'mindwipe'. This machine targets the fresh memories from a selected marker point of memory and erases everything since – effectively removing any evidence of the illegal activities. When Michael is approached by an old friend to undergo a three-year stint of work to be followed by extensive erasing, he is hesitant; no one has ever risked anything greater than eight months of erasure. However, he does so for shares in the company and with the new product he has reverse engineered, his shares will be worth 92 million dollars upon the completion of his work.
Except, at sometime during the last four weeks, he sent himself an envelope containing all he needs to figure out why he also denounced his shares in whatever it was he was making. With the help of another old friend and his girlfriend of the last three years (of whom he has no memory), he must figure out what the thing he built was and why it is so important that he destroy it before the company men have him killed.
|"You can’t change your fate, Mike… you’re gonna die today."|
Ben Affleck, having not made a decent film for a while, has managed to salvage himself a little dignity and turn in a fairly good performance in this 114-minute faux-sci-fi actioner. Set in an indiscriminate time period closely resembling our own, director John Woo has done what he does so well in creating a realistic vision of what might be should such an invention as Michael Jennings created actually be created.
Uma Thurman, always lovely and always brilliant, turns is a top-notch performance as Jennings’ girlfriend Rachel Porter and the wholly underrated Paul Giamatti also shines as the nervous (though underused) old friend and partner Shorty. The action scenes are believable, though there are some slightly baffling moments in which we find ourselves suspending belief just the slightest amount. But hey, it’s an action film with a brain. Not exactly wowing them at the box office (perhaps due to the brain content of the science), this is however an interesting cerebral trip into cause and effect that drags some action scenes along for the ride.
Don’t expect rocket science just yet from Mr. Affleck, but this is a fairly entertaining action film from the same author as Blade Runner and Total Recall. While not in the same brooding atmosphere as Blade Runner and not as full-on action fantasy as Total Recall, this is however a nice melding of the two that does flow along similar lines at times (though more TR than BR). Well worth a look for people with a passing interest in science fiction and action movies, Paycheck delivers what it sets out to deliver – an action film with a mystery along for the ride.
Surprisingly for a film made in 2003, this transfer suffers from film artefacts! Not that there are a lot, but a few pop up here and there in a very disappointing manner. Otherwise everything looks great in this full cinema aspect ratio delivery of 2.35:1 with 16:9 anamorphic enhancement. Colour is even and rich, the lines are sharp and clear and blacks are all true. The limited shadow detail is even fine giving up its contents readily. Apart from the disappointing film artefacts, this looks great.
Naturally we have ourselves a wide-ranging Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. This stays busy throughout, particularly during the action sequences both outdoors and in the laboratory. The subwoofer too keeps up, filling the room with noise while ably supporting the explosions and such plus the music. The music here is a nice soundtrack for the film, progressively getting faster through the film to build tension and adding dramatic and tense backing to the story on screen. Dialogue is all fine and well spoken without any real issues of confusion and the sound effects are married to the film well.
Paycheck isn’t the greatest science fiction film of all time, though it is by no means the worst. It hovers around the mid-range average point for execution but a bit above that for an interesting take on an old idea. Performances are great, with even Ben Affleck proving he isn’t just a show pony, and there’s a definite chemistry between he and Uma. While falling into the action film category just a little regularly and sorta forgetting the original premise, this is still a fairly good action film, though as science fiction it isn’t high art.
Worth a rental at least with an option to buy from there.