Ben Affleck is a brilliant reverse engineer. He is hired by different companies to puzzle outand improve on their competitors’ technologies, then has his memory of his work wiped so hecannot divulge what he knows. His current job is something big. In exchange for a couple ofyears of his life, he will be granted huge stock options. But when he collects his paycheck, all hegets is a collection of mundane objects in a manilla envelope. And then everybody is trying tokill him. …omehow, the bits and pieces in the envelope are always just what he needs at everycrisis moment to get him out of the jam.
The trailer gives away the nature of the secret project, but for the benefit of those who don’talready know what Affleck was working on, I will no reveal that here. SF writer Philip K. Dick’smind-bending narratives continue to inspire one film after another, but once again the results aremixed. The best Dick film remains Bladerunner, with Total Recall andMinority Report being at least qualified successes. Paycheck, on the other hand isresolutely ordinary. The premise is solid, but the execution finally leaves one with the sense ofhaving seen this all before — probably not exactly the sens of déjà-vu the filmmakers were goingfor. When Affleck and Uma Thurman are on-screen together, you can’t help but feel that thewrong actor was cast as the protagonist. John Woo’s action ballets are now tired and uninspired.Lo, the mighty have fallen.
Uninspiring though the film might be, its sound is first-rate. The music is very strong, withpowerful bass lines. The surround effects are well deployed, with solid environmental creation atevery opportunity (check out the villain’s party for a good example of this). The dialogue is neverdrowned out, and is free of distortion.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is wonderfully sharp. The blacks are absolutelyperfect, as are the contrasts. The colours are rich and strong. They are, if anything, perhaps a littlebit too strong, and the flesh tones are sometimes red-shifted. Still, this is a very minor cavil.There is virtually no edge enhancement or grain (though there is a bit of grain in the scene whereAffleck arrives at the villain Aaron Echart’s headquarters).
Two commentary tracks here: one by John Woo, the other by writer Dean Georgaris. Wootalks a lot about his visual goals in each scene, his input into the script, and so on. Georgarisnaturally has much to say about the story, but has a lot of behind-the-scenes info as well. Thereare two featurettes. “Designing the Future” doesn’t get around to looking at production designuntil a third of the way through its 18-minute running time, while “Tempting Fate” does getdown to examining the stunts right away. Both featurettes are, of course, promotional in nature.There are 6 deleted/extended scenes, and an alternate ending (and we can be grateful that itwasn’t used). There is no trailer for Paycheck itself, but there are for Timeline,The Perfect Score, Against the Ropes and Sky Captain and the World ofTomorrow. That last trailer is worth the rental of this disc alone. The menu’s main screenand intro are animated and scored.
Acceptable entertainment, but deeply uninspired, and thus a real disappointment comingfrom the man who was once the world’s pre-eminent action director.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Writer’s Commentary
- “Designing the Future” Featurette
- “Tempting Fate” Featurette
- Deleted/Extended Scenes
- Alternate Ending