Plot: What’s it about?
Regardless of what the critics say (and I suppose I could be considered one of them), “Paycheck” was a movie I really enjoyed. Paramount makes no secret that it’s from the same man, Phillip K. Dick, whose stories inspired “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report” and while this isn’t either of those, I found the concept and the execution very intriguing. But first, a little on the cast and crew…the movie was directed by John Woo who has helmed such projects as “Face/Off” and “Mission: Impossible 2” just to name a couple. Both were exciting and had a very unique blend of story and action. “Paycheck”, despite its science fiction origins, is really no different. I might also mention the recent trend of movies that use memory (or lack thereof) as a basis for plot. Starting a few years back with “Memento”, we met a man who could no longer form new memories. Up until a certain incident, he had normal memories, but due to a tragedy he couldn’t make new ones. So in essence, every day was a brand new day. Even in comedies this has been explored and none more so than “Groundhog Day”. Bill Murray is literally living the same day (Feb. 2) over and over and with the recent “50 First Dates” we meet a woman (played by Drew Barrymore) who lives each day differently, but thinks it’s the same day. While “Paycheck” is a bit different than these, the concept is the same in that our memories play a very important part in our past, present and future…
And as we meet Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck), he’s just taken a concept from a company, improved upon it and collected a tidy little profit. He’s then scanned by a machine and has his memories from the last two months erased. The company has what it wants and Michael what he wants. He does this, he’s good at it and his boss (Aaron Eckhart) is happy with him. There is, of course, that one big job that is too tempting to turn down. Unlike the prior jobs that paid less (though “less” is probably more than what you and I will see in a given year), this one has a guaranteed eight figure salary. The catch? It takes three years of his life. Mind you, that’s three years of his life that he’ll never have back, but has sold it for a big paycheck. Michael accepts the job, and before we know it his paycheck is worth nearly $100 million dollars. Grinning from ear to ear, he goes to the bank to pick some of it up only to find that he’s forfeited it for an envelope of 20 items. Why? It would seem that whatever it was that Michael was working on was far more important than money, but like the cover indicates ? he must put the pieces of the puzzle back together to figure out what’s going on. Oh yeah…ruthless government agents are also trying to kill him while he tries to remember his ultra hot girlfriend (Uma Thurman).
“Paycheck” was your standard “it’s coming out at Christmas and not trying to contend for an Oscar” movie. It didn’t (contend that is), but I thought it delivered a pretty good punch. John Woo usually picks his projects carefully and for any fans of his out there, there’ll be some recognizable scenes. The action is choreographed in such a manner that we know it’s an Asian director (or a wannabe, anyway) behind the camera and with the stars and budget, it’s hard to go wrong. Aaron Eckhart plays a pretty good bad guy, not so much as his best role in “In the Company of Men”, but he’s still convincingly “bad” here. This is more of a vehicle for Affleck and even Thurman to do a “big budget” movie after her killer roles (no pun intended) in the “Kill Bill” movies. While “Paycheck” won’t really compare to the likes of “Blade Runner” or “Minority Report”, it’s got the same soul. Affleck has made better movies, but certainly far worse and for those wanting some pretty good action sequences with enough maturity to keep you thinking throughout, then this might be your movie.
Video: How does it look?
I can remember watching “Paycheck” when it came out on standard DVD several years back and now we’ve got a Blu-ray version. The 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer looks just as good as I remember and the image seems a cleaned up a bit compared to the previous DVD (I had to look long and hard to find it, I might add). Colors pop and are very vibrant though the overall tone of the film is dark and futuristic. I believe that I mentioned that “Woo uses his camera like an artist uses his paintbrush” and I was a bit surprised at myself for coming with with such a witty analogy. Well it’s true and this HD transfer looks stunning. A great effort here and certainly an improvement over the standard DVD.
Audio: How does it sound?
“Paycheck” has gotten the Dolby TrueHD treatment as expected and the one thing I immediately noticed was the presence of more depth on the LFE front. While we’re treated to more of an action type atmosphere, there is a lot of dialogue involved in the film. Surround effects are used prevalently and help establish and build the mood of the movie. Dialogue is strong, with no distortion in the least. There are plenty of action sequences (most notably a motorcycle chase) that really make great use of all the speakers. While this isn’t so strong that it’s overpowering, it’s a great soundtrack and one that will satisfy most listeners.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The exact same supplements that were present on the DVD are present here with nothing new or exclusive to Blu-ray. Featuring two commentary tracks, the first from John Woo and the second from Screenwriter Dean Georgaris; these two are pretty informative. I personally feel they should have been edited together into one track, but this isn’t the case. Woo, understandably, talks of “director” things while Georgaris speaks of bringing the story to the screen, as we might expect. Whichever route you go, the tracks are informative. Seven deleted scenes are shown, mostly are extended. These are shown in non-anamorphic widescreen and don’t add a whole lot to the movie. Next up are two featurettes, “Paycheck: Designing the Future” which focuses on the production design of creating the near future. It never really says when and if it did I missed it, but “Paycheck” has a very slick, modern feel to it much like “Minority Report” but not as flashy. This featurette shows what went into designing it. Next up is “Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck”. Again, very self explanatory…as we dive into the world of stunts, we see that “Paycheck” had quite a few. Naturally we know Affleck isn’t going to risk his million dollar mug for anything too dangerous and in come the stunt men.