‘Paycheck’ cashes in cheap

Ted Pigeon

The stories of sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick have always been successful when adapted into films. Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”remains to this day, one of the most visually astounding films ever made. Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report” is a brilliant sci-fifilm noir that’s easily one of the best films of the past few years.What makes his stories so good is that, while they are all well-told and entertaining, every one of them is about ideas and provokes thought at its core, like most great science fiction stories. This is obviously something that famous action director John Woo didn’t grasp when making”Paycheck,” the latest of Dick’s stories adapted into a film. This film not only embodies the personification of mindlessness, but is an underwhelming action picture that is so ridiculous at times, it almost feels like a parody.

Ben Affleck stars as Michael Jennings, an engineer who performs top-secret experiments for his company and then allows his memory of them, which is usually about two to three month’s worth, to be wiped clean in exchange for a big paycheck. His billionaire boss named Rethrick, played by Aaron Eckhart, then approaches Jennings with an experiment that, instead of erasing a few months of his memory,will erase three years. The paycheck he offers Jennings is huge, and one that he can’t turn down, so he agrees. But when Michael wakes up, he discovers that he doesn’t have the money. And for some reason unknown to him due to his memory loss, the company is out to hunt him down.

The premise is far from original, but it could have still made for a decent film. However, Woo and Affleck have done everything in their power to prevent that from happening. The action scenes are routine, the acting is bad and the script is insulting. Affleck seems to want to follow in the steps of his friend Matt Damon, who played a similar character in “The Bourne Identity,” but Affleck fails miserably. He’d be better off sticking to romantic comedies and light dramas, which is what he’s good at. As for his co-star UmaThurman, it’s hard to see her in such a boring role in an action movieafter having seen her in “Kill Bill.”Her talent is wasted here.

But the biggest disappointment is Woo, whoat one time made pretty good action movies. It’s hard to believe thathe directed a film as poorly made as this one, though he has been showing signs of declining for some time now (see “Windtalkers”). It’s a preposterous movie that goes through all the motions of a typical mindless sci-fi film, and it barely provides any entertainment value. If you want to see good science fiction movies, watch “Blade Runner” and “MinorityReport” because “Paycheck” is nothing more than their table scraps.