Aneesh Chaganty

Movie #137 Paycheck

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2011 at 9:02 PM

Movie #137 Paycheck

(2003, US, d. John Woo)

Michael Jennings (Ben Afleck) is a reverse engineer. What does that mean? Well we never really get to find out. It’s just one of the plot’s many, many inconsistencies, holes, and/or faults. Jennings is a man hired to perform complex and secret engineering tasks for big firms for months on end. In fact, they’re so complex and secret, the firm will wipe his memory after he’s done. The plot revolves around his biggest paying job – one that lasts for three years. He wakes up and when he goes to the bank to collect his promised 98 million dollars, he discovers to his surprise he has forfeited all the money for a bag of random objects. It’s a great premise. In fact, it’s a phenomenal premise. Where it goes wrong is with the direction, acting, and writing – basically the rest of the film. Since it was based off Phillip K. Dick’s short story (the author who penned the short story for Minority Report, one of my favorite films), it’s a testament purely to the filmmakers of how bad this movie is. Basically those random objects get him out of tight situations one after another and end up putting him on a massive search for the truth of what happened in those three years. The writing, first off, is atrocious. It takes a great premise and stretches it to something a bad 90’s writer would have written. Secondly, the acting is terrible. Today’s Ben Afleck, a talented actor, would have been fine, but it’s crazy to see how bad he was just a few years before. Also, Uma Thurman is so miscast, it hurts. Finally, the direction: John Woo hasn’t really made a great film apart from Face/Off in America and I’m really glad he’s back to his native Hong Kong where he actually makes good films, but everything about Paycheck is poorly executed: the action scenes, the timing of suspense, the occasional comedic timings, etc… Another big fault of the movie – is that if you think about it – there is no conflict. Jennings gave himself all the objects he would need after seeing the future. What we were watching is every object do exactly what was planned – no conflict. That said, one thing I did like about the film was the subtle North By Northwest homages. Afleck’s suit, hair, taxi cab companies, and the bank name, are all small signs that are hard to catch but it felt like a rewarding Easter egg hunt. Overall though, the film wasn’t unbearable. It’s strong premise does manage to pull the audience through and though winning its fair share of Golden Razzies, does still make for good Friday night entertainment.

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