Cinema Signal:

Selected Stories of
Philip K. Dick
Works that were the basis of "Blade Runner", "Screamers", "Total Recall", "Minority Report" and "Paycheck."

. "Paycheck"

In a movie that 13 years ago might have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger ("Total Recall" comes to mind), Ben Affleck takes the role of Sci-Fi action hero as an advanced engineer (as in "physicist") who is capable of building new machines the like of which defines the future. With Uma Thurman as the action-able love interest, how bad can it be?

A "paycheck" is what Michael Jennings (Affleck) works for -- why he's willing to have his memory erased by the corporation that hires him to design new products with far-reaching consequences so that he won't be able to re-design them at the end of his contract. As his employers are screwing around with the circuits of his brain, the compensation money tends to be large enough to induce him to ignore the downside of such bio-intrusions and look the other way about any ethics that may be involved.

Besides the rather astounding intellectual capability of his lead character, director John Woo is careful to point up Affleck's physical potential by showing him training (with sidekick Shorty - Paul Giamatti) with a baton (easier than learning more difficult martial arts routines) and with a scene that displays some chest muscle. Being convinced of his speed and strength will afford credibility in the combats to come.

When Jennings is approached by old college buddy and current ruthless boss of a development company, Jim Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), having just completed a contract, he turns the offer down. Until, that is, Rethrick sweetens the deal with a payday of 8 figures for a 3-year project which Jennings will not, of course, remember at its conclusion. The promise of retiring with a small fortune sways Jennings to go for it despite demanding contractual commitments, and learns that he's to design a machine capable of seeing the future. As he's welcomed into the team, he finds himself in contact with the super alluring weather scientist Rachel (Uma Thurman), an important employee of Rethrick's -- as though $90 mil wasn't enough to convince him he's made the right decision.

Philip K. Dick, visionary
Paycheck, based on a 1953 short story Dick sold to a pulp magazine for less than $200, will bring close to $2 million to his estate. And movies based on more than a half-dozen other stories and novels are in the works - among them "The King of the Elves" at Disney, "The Short, Happy Life of the Brown Oxford" at Miramax, and "A Scanner Darkly" at Warner Bros.
~~Wired On-line
For more about Dick
After Jennings emerges from the memory extraction machine at the conclusion of his work and is discharged, he discovers a numbered account that he, himself, had unexplainably zeroed out, and is given an envelope of personal belongings containing odd, seemingly innocuous items. With the memory of his last 3 years gone, he realizes that he has seen his own future in the machine he built for Rethrick and gathered these things as personal belongings in order to deceive his betrayers and reclaim his life and the paycheck he earned. As he makes his moves and discovers the purpose of each item, Rethrick. his primary henchman Wolfe (very composed Colm Feore), and the FBI seek him for destruction or capture. The chase is on.

In an action context, Affleck is no Schwarzenegger but director Woo works with what he's got and shows a considerable amount of cinematic know how in his metering out of the story points and the well-tuned buildups of tension and characters. Working from a a screenplay adaptation by Dean Georgaris ("Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life"), he has turned in a far more satisfying product than his nonsensical "Face/Off." The basis of the movie is the ingeniously conceived short story by Philip K. Dick whose "Minority Report", also a short story, was similarly adapted.

Own it today! (Click on item link)
The Blu-ray Edition DVD

  • Commentary by director John Woo
  • Commentary by screenwriter Dean Geogaris
  • Paycheck: Designing the Future
  • Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck
  • Extended/Deleted Scenes
    The Soundtrack by John Powell
  • While the role for Thurman is limited, she provides the sex appeal and emotional tension that are vital components of a man-on-the-run thriller. The need for Jennings to rediscover his deep love for her after his memory wipe plays well in the time-altered context of the story. Thurman singes the screen with body heat and a suggestive look that can melt kryptonite. She's also capably physical when the need arises, well conditioned as she was by her romp in "Kill Bill, Vol 2."

    This is movie night material for futuristic action fans who are launched into entertainment orbit by a thriller with clever plotting of time lines. Who it doesn't work for are people with no affinity for the anti-charismatic Affleck, and those who can't accept the occasional leap of logic in favor of a well paced flow of action provided by an original concept about past-future memory and self identification. It may feel contrived to some, but I'm among the few who found it clever and human enough in its sci-fi frame of reference to enjoy and have a good time. You might, too, if you're not simply put off by a Ben Affleck starrer.

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                                          ~~  Jules Brenner  

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    Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman
    Physicist-Engineer and girlfriend trying to play out
    his future with no memory of a vital part of his past.

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