Ben Affleck is Cary Grant channeling a skateboard punk. His first appearance in the movie is so obviously a clumsy attempt by John Woo to give a little love to Alfred Hitchcock that it could well spell the death of the homage. Yes, Affleck does resemble Grant in his spiffy three-piece suit. Unfortunately, Affleck then delivers his trademark smirk and -- even worse -- opens his mouth. That kind of thing may sell teen girl magazines, but Woo and Affleck have managed to desecrate Hitchcock's legacy in the process. If you dug Hitchcock up today and strapped what's left of him behind a camera, you'd still get a better movie than "Paycheck."
There are a couple of very specific things that bothered me during this film, so I'll just address them instead of making some effort to be cohesive, because it's the holidays and all the disingenuous holiday cheer has made me ill.
First, what has happened to the traditional movie fight scene? Woo, formerly a master at such things, has turned to the dark side and is now cutting so fast and shaking the camera so violently that one has to be hopped up on speed to make anything out. Maybe that actually is the problem: So many actors, directors, and writers are actually on drugs that their sense of pacing is permanently off.
Second, at one point Uma Thurman's character says something like: "He's after you and I." It's really hard to imagine there wasn't ONE PERSON on the set that couldn't recognize and correct this grammatical error. Oh sure, it's made so often now that one could just assume Uma's character is stupid, but given how many rewrites and double-checks this script endured, it's nothing short of amazing that NOT ONE PERSON could get this right. Just so everybody knows, "he" is the subject of that sentence. "I" is the subjective form of that pronoun. "Me" is the objective form. Since Uma's "I" is the object of that sentence, the proper thing to say is: "He's after you and me." You wouldn't say, "He's after I," would you? So you wouldn't say "He's after you and I" either. Don't you think if a giant penis walked across the middle of a scene during a key moment, the filmmakers would catch that? This grammatical error is no less glaring.
Affleck plays Michael Jennings, an engineer who works on such sensitive projects that after he's done, he has his memory erased so he can't divulge any of the details. After his latest project, however, he wakes up to discover that he's forfeited nearly 100 million dollars in payment and left himself a bunch of stuff in an envelope as clues to find out why. Also, the head of the company (Aaron Eckhart) and his security guy (Colm Feore) are after him. He soon learns, as do we, that he developed a machine that allows one to look into the future, apparently based on one of Einstein's principles that states: "Any scientific theory positing possible time travel and/or spacetime warping will be mangled by some idiotic filmmaker and inserted into the plot of some dumb film." Einstein was very proud of this theory, incidentally.
So, Jennings leaves himself these items to help him figure things out. Does this mean that he used the machine to see himself leaving those items or did he put different items in the envelope and then check the machine to see what effect they had on the outcome? Your guess is as good as mine.
What Woo doesn't realize is that the story itself, if left alone, would be interesting enough to carry the movie. However, he inserts a lot of requisite fighting, gunplay and motorcycle chases that the movie doesn't need. Additionally, Affleck as an action hero seems incredibly silly. Remember, his character is an engineer. Then, suddenly he's Mr. Martial Arts and all the bad guys just sort of run at him and fall down.
Everyone should get a paycheck just for sitting through this thing.
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