What seemed like a breezy idea for an engineer to net him millions of dollars, leaves him on the run for his life and piecing together why he's being chased.
Release Year: 2003
Rating: 6.1/10 (49,954 voted)
Critic's Score: 43/100
Stars: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman
Storyline Michael Jennings is a reverse engineer and what he does is technical jobs for certain companies and as soon as he is done, his memory of the work he has done is wiped out. Now the longest he has been contracted is 2 months. But now billionaire, James Rethrick offers him a job that would last 2 years, maybe 3, and he promises that he will probably earn 8 figures. Michael agrees. Before beginning he turns in all of his personal effects. And when the job is done, his memory is erased and he learns he made over 90 million dollars over the three years. When he goes to claim it and his personal effects, he discovers that prior to the erasure of his memory he waived his rights to the money he earned and that the items that were given to him were not the ones he gave when he began. Later he is arrested by the FBI who say that he committed some act of treason and murder. It's while he is in custody that he escapes using some the items that he was given...
Writers: Philip K. Dick, Dean Georgaris
Cast: Ben Affleck
Michael C. Hall
Attorney General Brown
Callum Keith Rennie
Jude - Guard
The future depends on a past he was paid to forget.
Filming Locations: Burrard SkyTrain Station, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $13,462,374
(28 December 2003)
(28 March 2004)
Did You Know?
The year before, Ben Affleck appeared in
The Sum of All Fears, as Jack Ryan, a role previously played by Harrison Ford. This film is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, whose work also inspired the film
Blade Runner, also starring Ford.
In the closeup of the bus pass, it is marked for Route 14. Yet when Jennings exits the bus after chasing the ring thief, the banner at the top of the bus is for Route 44.
It's time to wake up... and get a life. We live in a 3-dimensional world. Until now, the world of computing has been a flat world, consisting of 2-dimensional imagery. Now, through the use of exclusive breakthrough technology, ARC has made it possible for you to get a life. A-Life, where we can work and play in a lifelike world of 3-dimensional reality. A-Life, the living monitor.
Intriguing premise is made mildly enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying.
Rating: ** out of ****
I wonder what it says about the state of cinematic science fiction that
most of author Philip K. Dick's adaptations generally mix high-octane
action with its interesting sci-fi concepts. Paycheck is no exception,
hardly a surprise when you note it's from once beloved Hong Kong
filmmaker John Woo, who's quickly reaching Michael Bay/Roland Emmerich
levels of notoriety in the U.S. with each regressive film.
To be fair, Paycheck isn't unenjoyable, and it even gets off to a
pretty good start. Set sometime in the near future, there's not much of
a noticeable difference with our present time except for a few
elaborate-looking gadgets and computers. Ben Affleck stars as Michael
Jennings, a reverse engineer who's hired by major corporations to build
products superior to all rival companies. Afterwards, his memory is
erased by a partner of his (Paul Giamatti) and he's given a large
paycheck for his time and troubles (usually the whole process takes
about three months).
His latest offer comes from an old friend of his (Aaron Eckhart), who
promises an eight-figure deal at the end of the transaction. The catch
is that the whole procedure will take three years. Despite some
reluctance, he agrees to the deal and when the three years pass by,
Jennings, thinking he's a rich man, is shocked to discover he gave up
over ninety million dollars in favor of an envelope containing twenty
everyday household items. Now he finds himself on the run from both the
FBI and the company that hired him, and must set out to discover what
he built during those three years he's missing.
Uma Thurman also stars in the movie as Jennings' girlfriend during that
three-year span, but she factors so lazily into the picture, she's
obviously only in the film so that a) Jennings can have a love interest
and b) he can also have someone to talk to about every little discovery
he makes. Then again, function "b" could have worked just as well with
Giamatti, but everyone knows a "sexy" chick is a better sell (I have to
put quote marks around sexy because Thurman looks positively haggard
for almost every minute of screen time she's present; I can't help but
feel the much hotter Kathryn Morris would have done better in the
There are two concepts in this movie that specifically intrigue me
(some moderate spoilers here), the first one is choosing deliberately
to erase your own memory, but the notion is forgotten after the first
half-hour. I was quite curious to know exactly what the process is like
to the subject. Take, for instance, the fact that he lost his memory
over the three-year span. Does the last thing he remembers feel like a
three-year old memory or an event that happened just a second ago?
Instead, all we get is a half-hearted (actually, not even that much)
attempt at a sorrowful romance because he can't remember his girlfriend
and she's not very happy about that.
The other major sci-fi concept, the ability to see into the future,
isn't explored with much more interest and it leads to a number of
baffling questions. You see (quite a few spoilers here), it's revealed
Jennings sent himself those twenty items because they can come in handy
at a specific moment that'll help him survive or escape from a
But the thing is, Jennings couldn't have known each item would come in
handy unless he used the device he built at least twenty times, because
there's no way he'd know a motorcycle would come in handy if he never
had, say, the bus ticket to escape from the FBI, meaning he used the
device to see what he needed to escape the FBI, but still foresaw that
he'd be killed in even more future events. That would mean this guy was
originally destined to die or get caught in well over ten different
scenarios (i.e. he had the bus ticket to escape, but if he didn't have
the motorbike keys, he wouldn't have gotten further, and so on and so
forth), but this is never really addressed.
By John Woo standards, there's surprisingly only a modest amount of
action in the film, but at least the material is competently handled,
even if it's not entirely believable. What might work in movies that
establish their characters as supercops with impeccable aims doesn't
come off quite as well in action scenes that feature scientists beating
up a large number of armed goons. But if you suspend disbelief, the
action scenes are pretty fun (especially the motorcycle chase and the
laboratory battle), and coupled with the relatively fast pace, keep the
movie perfectly watchable despite the poor script and mediocre acting
(I never got into specifics, but this is Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman
we're talking about).
When all is said and done, Paycheck is a wasted opportunity and is
never as memorable a mixture of science fiction, mystery, and action as
Minority Report, but it's likely to do the trick for undemanding fans
of any of these genres. If you expect more, well, you'd do best to
remember this is John Woo we're talking about, not Steven Spielberg.