Projections - Movie Reviews
Pay Check
Starring Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart,
Michael C. Hall, Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Morris
Ben Affleck and John Woo provide sci-fi action entertainment for the busy holidays in Paycheck, but it isn't the kind of present their fans would have hoped for. Both star and director have been in a slump of late, Affleck from Gigli and Daredevil, and Woo from Windtalkers.

The premise from a Philip K. Dick short story involves technology and the idea of projecting the future as Affleck's Michael Jennings appears to be in a similar state as Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

The career of Jennings is that of a high-tech "reverse" engineer, a kind of equipment enhancer developed from his advanced troubleshooting methods. He has to have his memory wiped out after projects for quality control for security reasons. A typical day would have Michael earning a salary that is very handsome, but the latest assignment is over three years and worth $90 million.

The envelope Michael is handed at the end of his latest job doesn't contain items withheld at the start. His sunglasses and watch are gone, but random average things like a matchbook, a crossword puzzle, and a coin that appear to be irrelevant are in his manilla envelope. And when the savings and loan company tells him that he has forfeited his financial dividend he becomes a fugitive with nary a penny left to his name.

The connection comes as one learns about the $90 million recent project to see into the future without obstruction from the curvature of time. The events double back to include Michael's past love interest, appealing biologist Rachel (Ulma Thurman of Kill Bill) who'll be a part of his tenuous existence as those everyday objects are used pretty well. But, Woo needs a good chase scene or two, whether in a subway tunnel or in traffic to keep one from dwelling on the boring, fantastic chain of events.

Affleck holds his own to give his scientific whiz a working-class quality, while Thurman is allowed to hit her stride late in the picture. Woo however doesn't realize her strengths as Quentin Tarantino does. Aaron Eckhart of The Core is the smarmy entrepreneurial boss of Jennings, Jimmy Rethrick and Paul Giamatti.

Paycheck is a by-the-numbers thriller that tries to be fascinating even-though the usually gripping work from Dick's science fiction is missing. The Vancouver-based production is aided by good stunt work and slick lensing by Jeffrey L. Kimball, but all the visual effects and Woo's usually neat flourishing are just a prism to a stocking stuffer that confounds more than astounds.

Pay Check

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