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Paycheck - Special Collector's Ed.  (2003)


Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 18, 2004
Review posted: May 31, 2004

Spoilers: Minor


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is a brilliant computer engineer hired for top-secret projects. After each job, Jennings' short-term memory is erased so he cannot recount any information. Emerging from his latest assignment, a three-year contract with an eight-figure paycheck given to him by his longtime friend (Aaron Eckhart), Jennings is jolted when he is told that during the end of his assignment, he agreed to forfeit all payment. He has no recourse until he receives a mysterious envelope containing items/clues to his forgotten past. With the help of a beautiful scientist (Uma Thurman) he once loved but now cannot remember, Jennings races to solve the puzzle of his past while a terrifying discovery waits in his future.




Much like the film Minority Report, author Philip K. Dick's short story "Paycheck" features futuristic elements wrapped around a really cool concept. Screenwriter Dean Georgaris (Tomb Raider 2) adapts the story and crafts a pretty decent script. With John Woo at the helm, the film seemed like it could be good. However, I had mixed feelings after viewing the film in the theater last year in December. I liked parts of it, while some elements just didn't work for me. With the DVD now out in stores, I watched the film again and liked it a little more. In fact, Paycheck seems to play better in the comforts of home.


Ben Affleck does a good job, I think, with most of the material. He does his own stunts, which is certainly admirable, yet there are certain (quiet) moments when he doesn't come off strong enough. His relationship with Uma Thurman's Rachel is only half interesting, and their romance doesn't resonate as much as it should. Even though her character is not fleshed out a lot, Thurman handles the role well, especially in an emotional scene towards the middle of the film. On the other hand, Eckhart doesn't impress much playing Rethrick, the designated villain after Colm Feore's Wolfe. Both actors can act, but their characters are rather lame.


Paycheck benefits from a fast-paced screenplay. Writer Georgaris presents action and story elements in a fresh voice, and the mystery of the twelve items pays off rather well. Director John Woo (Face/Off, Hard Target) adds his signature style to the visual element of the film, creating a pretty cool motorcycle chase and a well-choreographed climax. However, some of the action doesn't quite work in the context of the story. That is, it feels as though Woo wants to make the action the highlight of the film. I don't have anything against making the presentation of the story more exciting, but to me Woo fails to make Paycheck mysterious and intriguing.


Despite some flaws and the few sensationalized action pieces, even though the action is well choreographed, Paycheck remains a pretty decent film. I think the film's "concept" is a major draw and a good enough reason to see the film. While it could've been better, Paycheck offers a good story and decent entertainment.




Paramount presents Paycheck in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are bright and well-saturated. I didn't notice compression artifacts. Grain is very low key, never a problem. There are no major flaws with the image; it's clear and devoid of dirt or scratches. Overall, this is a clean and good-looking presentation. Optional subtitles include English and Closed Captions.




Paramount presents Paycheck in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The sound effects are nicely reinforced by the surrounds. Channel separation and dynamic range is evident in this presentation. John Powell's score sounds good, but is also a little quiet. A very nice presentation overall. The film is also available in a French 5.1 dub track and an English Dolby Digital track.




This Special Collector's Edition DVD starts off with two commentary tracks. The commentary by director John Woo features some good information, but also several silent spots. He describes the action, discusses the actors, and other things that I found to be only moderately interesting. While he speaks English rather well, there are moments when he's a bit hard to understand.


The commentary by screenwriter Dean Georgaris is more information-filled and interesting from the perspective of a writer. Georgaris discusses changes to the script, characters, motivations, tone, and reveals some cool trivia long the way. He also points out all the scenes that Woo changed or adjusted, which leaves me to question just how much of the first few drafts, one of which I read and liked, survived until filming. A pretty good track.


Paycheck: Designing the Future (18:12) features interviews with Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, John Woo, Terence Chang, Colm Feore, and several other people. Topics discussed are Affleck's character, casting choices, acting, production design, sets, and John Woo's direction. There's a good amount of on-set footage and film clips, but also several conceptual drawings and photos. Colm Feore analyzes a scene late in the film (1:33:52), which I think is kind of funny. Ah, and Paul Giamatti is in this, too. Overall, it's a mostly promotional featurette that's


Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck (16:45) is an informative featurette that looks at various stunts in the film, including the "motorcycle chase", the "subway station", and the "hydroponic garden". The interviews are quite good, actually, as is all of the behind-the-scenes footage that supports the interviews. The featurette also uses storyboard pictures effectively by blending them into transitions. John Woo tells us Affleck wanted to do his own stunts and the director let the actor do it because he looks "so strong and so sexy." Well, something to that effect, anyway.


Next are six deleted/extended scenes (10:23). Two add to the film a little bit, like the confrontation between Jennings and Rethrick, but the other four don't. The video quality of these is really good, they're fully-produced. The alternate ending (2:01) is okay; it features Jennings and Rachel taking a stroll on the street, with Jennings buying back the diamond ring he lost on the bus earlier in the film.


Rounding out the extras are bonus trailers for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Timeline, The Perfect Score, and Against the Ropes. The 115-minute feature is organized into twenty-two chapters.




Paycheck features a cool concept and fast-paced script, but there are some flaws as well. Entertainment value is pretty decent, so I recommend a rental. The DVD edition boasts very nice video/audio, plus a nice featurette on stunts and a good writer commentary.




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