Film review by: Witney Seibold


Just once – once – I would like to see a large laboratory in a film or comic book that doesn’t blow up. It’s as reliable as the tides; whether it’s being used for good or evil, a huge enclave full of equipment and computers and test tubes and the like, is going to go up in a huge spark-showered blaze. The only one left consistently (or at least mostly) in tact is the Batcave. Such a finale is tacked onto the end of John Woo’s new actioner Paycheck.
“Paycheck” is based on a story by Philip K. Dick, that famous lover of memory games and time travel and causality. I have read one Dick novel, Confessions of a Crap Artist, which is as close as he’s come to an autobiography, and I can see why he’s preoccupied with wiping one’s memory.

The set up is: Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is a nerdy engineer who is hired to alter new technologies and make them re-marketable. Seeing as security is a high priority in such work, his memory is systematically erased by his hires. He recalls nothing, but gets a paycheck out of it. When enlisted for a three-year job/memory gap (longer than ever before), he reluctantly accepts. When brought to three years later, though, he finds himself pursued by the police, some other mysterious agents, and has only an envelope full of 20 innocuous items left behind as clues as to what happened. Pretty cool setup, eh?
The problem is, as is the problem with most films directed by John Woo, and indeed most action films in general, is that it uses it’s ideas as a setup for chases, gun battles, fistfights, swordfights, whatever action set-piece the director fancies. I liked the ideas behind the film; Dick is a wonderful author. But even after suspending my disbelief long enough to buy some of the close calls (a paper clip? Right then?), I wasn’t able to go the extra mile and accept the improbable motorcycle chases. Paul Giamatti and Uma Thurman are featured, and they’re always a pleasure, but despite its smart setup, it’s overall Dumb Action.

Published in: on August 26, 2009 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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