Film (2003). Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures present a Davis Entertainment Company/Lion Rock production in association with Solomon/Hackett Productions. Directed by John Woo. Written by Dean Georgaris, based on "Paycheck" (June 1953 Imagination) by Philip K Dick. Cast includes Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Paul Giamatti and Uma Thurman. 119 minutes. Colour.
Michael Jennings (Affleck) makes a living as an engineer by performing illegal jobs and then having his memories of the procedure removed. He agrees to perform, and forget, three years of work in exchange for a paycheck large enough to retire on; but wakes to find that he sent himself a plethora of seemingly useless household items instead of the money. A chase movie begins as a confused Jennings finds himself pursued by government and corporate forces, only to be repeatedly saved by using the objects he is carrying around. He realizes that he must have manufactured a machine to view the future, and returns to destroy it before it can be misused.
Paycheck starts promisingly, hewing surprisingly close to the original story, only to veer off into conventional studio action-movie riffs in its second half. As with most Dick adaptations, Paycheck upgrades its hero from a baffled middle-aged man to a square-jawed superhero. The film was presumably made to cash in on the success of Minority Report (2002), but whereas that film was full of memorable cameos from excellent actors, Paycheck wastes its quite talented cast with hackneyed dialogue. Paycheck is thematically a retread of superior Dick movies, and stylistically a retread of Woo's action clichés; it is also strangely paced, revealing too much plot too early, so that the final act is mainly just marking time until the predictable ending. Nevertheless, enough of Dick's original idea survives the ravages of Hollywood to make the movie occasionally thought-provoking. [JN]
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