Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Paycheck: Both the film's title and why it exists

Paycheck (2003)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, Paul Giamatti, and Colm Feore
Director: John Woo
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Industrial spy and computer engineer Michael Jennings (Affleck) agrees to work on a project so elaborate and top secret he'll have three entire years "cooked" from his brain by his partner (Giamatti) once he's done. However, instead of a big paycheck, Jennings finds assassins trying to kill him at the other end. Now, he has to recover what he's forgotten before it's too late, piecing together three years with only the minutes of clues.

I think that's a pretty accurate summary of this totally, utterly forgettable movie. I watched just three days ago, and I feel like it's been erased from my mind. I remember Affleck woefully inadequate acting talents being even more clearly on display when playing against real actors like Thurman and Giamatti (even though the latter had limited screen time). I remember a story so messy and full of holes that it resembled a block of swiss cheese being melted in the "brain cooker" device. I also remember John Woo (who once made the so-very-excellent action films "Hard Target" and "Hard Boiled") and feel a bit sad that he's reduced here to aping Hitchcock (in a way that's about as skillful as the way a chimp might mimick a person) and to desperately cramming his "signature visuals" into the film so it feels like he's almost parodying himself.

There's no doubt that everyone involved made this movie for no reason other than its title... they were looking for a paycheck, and they were hoping this messy pile would be forgotten as fast as one of Michael Jennings' special projects. It deserves to be forgotten, because its only saving grace is that it moves so fast that it's not until afterwards the audience fully realizes how awful a movie it is.

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