"If Hollywood screenwriters could learn ONE word, I wish it would be finesse."

- Equinox21

Paycheck (2003)

Director: John Woo

Writer: Dean Georgaris (screenplay), Philip K. Dick (Novel and probably spinning in his grave)

Producer: Terence Chang, John Davis, Michael Hackett, John Woo

Cast: Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, Paul Giamatti

Running Time: 110 Min.

Plot: Jennings (Affleck), an electrician who has had part of his memory erased, struggles to to find clues to his whereabouts for the past two years. Turns out his employer did the evil deed as a security measure, leaving him only with a collection of random objects to help him reconstruct his past.



It's so bad, the bank won't cash it.

John Woo, apparently still desperate to show the world that he can direct stuff other than straightforward action films (Windtalkers didn't get it out of his system), does a sucky job directing a sucky cast from a sucky script and, on the plus side, drives one more nail in the coffin of Ben Affleck's career. Seriously...does anyone consider this guy a real actor, as opposed to a movie star? Probably just the people who gleefully followed every twist and turn in his grossly overpublicized relationship with uber-bitch Jennifer Lopez; fuck 'em. 

The main character is Michael Jennings. He's basically the Quentin Tarantino of computer technology; he "creates" stuff that's cobbled together from other peoples' work, and for this he is hailed as a genius and given huge amounts of money. (Cheap shot? For certain. Deserved? Even more certain.) Upon completion of each project, his employers erase his memory for X. X = the amount of time spent at work. (And Y = "Y" the fuck didn't I just wait for the DVD?)

Aaron Eckhart plays Jimmy, the two-faced boss man for AllCom who gives Michael a $92 million task. Even allowing for the third-rate material he's given to work with, his performance is shitty. I've seen more threatening adversaries hanging around the kindergarten playground. Jennings's flight from Jimmy and his Thug Camp dropout henchmen, using an envelope full of innocuous items he sent to himself after forfeiting his money but before completing the job, is fraught with about as much danger as I encounter when I check my mail.

And then we have Uma Thurman, who portrays the love interest. So moved by her very existence is Michael Jennings that he transforms from a conscienceless, money-hoarding shitwad to the savior of humanity during the three years he works on Jimmy's big-ass secret project. Equinox21 was quite correct when he said that this woman could not act her way out of a wet paper bag, and I echo that sentiment here. (However, I am not the least bit concerned about offending all of you Kill Bill people. Eat me, Kill Bill people! Hahahahaha!)

If Philip K. Dick were still alive, he would most likely be horrified by this film. Minority Report was a much better movie that did a better job of going into the ethics of being able to predict the future. On the down side: Tom Cruise, and...well, Tom Cruise. that this has been done, it looks like John Woo won't be directing a MacGuyver feature film. And if he does, at least it will (presumably) star Richard Dean Anderson instead of Ben Affleck. Or Tom Cruise. And best of all, we would know, with absolute certainty, that it would suck...with or without any precogs or great big predicting machines.


EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: *** Spoiler Warning ***

If I had helped develop a machine that let me see the future I can tell you one thing I'd have done with it, I would have seen how lousy Paycheck was and would NOT have used up a free movie pass. I wanted to like this movie, I really did. I love John Woo's Hong Kong movies (and, admittedly, haven't seen all his Hollywood outings), I enjoy most of the Ben Affleck movies I see (I don't see ALL his movies, but the ones I do see are usually decent) and I LOVE Philip K. Dick (Author of the short story that this crapfest was based on). Not that I want to sound like I'm a purist for movies based on books/stories, but this movie got so many things wrong, and I don't mean just the translation from story to screen.

First of all, there was an abysmal script. Dean Georgaris (who also wrote the Tomb Raider sequel screenplay as well as a few other upcoming projects which are sure to suck) should be shot. Why is it that in Hollywood the only way to create a movie based on a book is to change everything about it and make sure there are plenty of people getting pummeled and plenty of things getting blown up? I hate to sound like I'm one of those purists, but it seems like almost every movie that has been based on a book that includes even a MODICUM of action in it becomes a huge, explosion filled, action extravaganza. Not just that, but the end of the movie is the biggest, crappiest cop out ever. In the story, Jennings uses the machine (which is actually not only a way to view the future, but it's called a "Time Scoop" because it is able to pick items up from the future and bring them back into the past, which is where Jennings gets the items that he leaves for himself) to finesse his way into becoming the co-owner of the company, thus insuring himself a wife (who happens to be the daughter of the owner) and more money than he will ever need. In the movie they forgo the finesse and simply have Jennings punch people and blow the machine up. Oh, but he can't be left poor at the end, now can he? No· they have him find a winning lotto ticket that he'd left for himself. Worst. Ending. Ever. If Hollywood screenwriters could learn ONE word, I wish it would be finesse.

Second problem with this movie is that it's simply too John Woo for itself. I've realized that John Woo is a great director, but only when he's directing the one and only genre he knows; action movies. The man can't make a movie that doesn't include heaps of bodies, hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds of gunfire and dozens of explosions. The guy is just ITCHING to get his "signaturesä into this movie· from the two situations in which characters are pointing guns at each other's heads (a la The Killer) to the completely and laughably misplaced white dove flying through the door. Pathetic. If John Woo was supposed to be the director, which means he's supposed to direct the actors on how to act, then he failed even the simple task of making this movie's characters be somewhat believable. They chose to have Jennings break back into the building and in the process encounter dozens of the worlds dumbest and most inept security guards. Where's the suspense? Where's the acting? Where's the direction? Ya broke my heart, Johnny, ya broke my heart! 

Worst problem of them all was Uma Thurman. No offense to all you Kill Bill lovers out there, but the woman couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag. Maybe it was just the script, but she was seriously grating on my nerves. Especially at the end when she was fidgeting around like a jonesin' coke addict. 

Overall, skip this one. Avoid it. Save yourself the annoyance of seeing yet another big budget, crappy, self-righteous, Hollywood joke of the week. Just read the short story; it's FAR more entertaining.