Movie Review – Paycheck

By Spike Harville–

In 1953, sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, who wrote “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which was made into “Bladerunner”, published a short story called “Paycheck.”

In 2003 action director John Woo expanded it into a full length movie starring Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart and Paul Giamatti. It cost $60 million to make and made $96.3 million at the box office worldwide.

Affleck plays Mike Jennings, a freelance reverse engineer. This is my favorite performance by Affleck to date. Really.

He is believable and comes across as sincere. His character has a very cool job. When the latest and greatest techno-gadget hits the market, Mike is hired to break it apart, figure it out, improve it enough to get around the patents, rebuild the new and improved version and deliver it to his employer.

After he delivers the goods he undergoes a memory wipe of some sort. All memory of the time he spent on the project is completely erased in a dangerous medical procedure. The more time that has to be wiped, the more dangerous the procedure. He undergoes the process so he has plausible deniability and so that privy company info is not retrievable. Paul Giamatti plays his lovable, pre-maturely balding and nervous friend, Shorty, who is his usual fabulous self.

This was the first film in which I saw Giamatti and predicted great things for him, which have since transpired. Aaron Eckhart has become a household name as well, rightly so, and plays a bad guy, whom you believe has no ethics at all. Uma Thurman is adequate as Affleck’s boilerplate love interest. Of course, I keep wanting her to turn into Beatrice Kiddo from “Kill Bill” and show the bad guys a deeper level of bad.

Jennings’ usual employer invites him to work on an extended three year project. That is longer than any previous project. Mike is offered a huge compensation package, and accepts the job, dismissing Shorty’s concerns. Moments later Mike wakes up in corporate headquarters being congratulated on a job well done. The three year project is over. When Mike goes to withdraw his $90 million dollars he discovers that he signed away his rights to the money and left himself a large manila envelope with about a dozen random items inside. Items like a stamp, a key, a bullet, a paperclip etc.

While trying to figure out what in the heck is going on Mike is arrested by the FBI. He overhears their plans to kill him and he escapes, only to find there are other people trying to kill him. The random items are suddenly just the things he needs to unravel the nail-biting time-bending mystery.

I asked 10 of my actor and filmmaker friends to rate the movie on the 5-star scale. I was shocked when they only rated it at only 1 1/2 stars. I asked the same of normal friends and family and they rated it 2 stars. Did we all watch the same movie? I have this on DVD and have watched it several times. I like it.

More than once my wife and I have looked through the hundreds of DVDs we have and decided “Paycheck” is what we would re-watch on a Saturday night. Okay, that happens about once every three years, but we really enjoy it each time. That’s long enough for us to forget some of the plot points so it seems new, exciting and clever each time we see it. It’s almost like we were memory wiped, I give it 3 stars.

I’m an actor, writer and filmmaker. I do weekly movie reviews of old movies and Vox Box where I look at the history of film and how it touches our culture, or anything else that catches my fancy.
My name is Dan Harville but, my friends call me Spike. Please visit my blog and follow me on Twitter @SpikeHarville


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