Ben Affleck finishes off the most devastating year of his career with a whimper in Paycheck, a film based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. Directed by John Woo, it is what you would expect if Minority Report met Gigli.
Woo, who in the 1990's became known as a top grade director with such hits as Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Mission: Impossible 2, has seemingly lost his touch, with the lackluster Windtalkers and now this. Everything that was once good about Woo's films have gone sour, as little off his taste for action is evident in his latest movie. The music is bad, and the timing for his signature pigeon is just plain lousy (right during the climax).
Yes, the action downright sucks. The signature action sequence of the film is a motorcycle chase through a bunch of empty (and conveniently open) shipping containers, and it is terrible, to say the least. Some of the other action scenes, which feature Affleck getting shot at by people who do not know when to aim or when to attack, are not nearly so bad, but not even remotely suspenseful. Worst of all, it never makes sense how an engineer is able to elude tens of assassins that have him surrounded for two-thirds of the movie.
The action isn't great, but the real problem with Paycheck is that nothing really makes sense. The plot of the film is that Affleck's character, Jennings, is hired by a firm to steal and engineer some special technology, and once he has completed his work, his memory for the last three years is erased. When he goes to collect his paycheck, though, he finds out that the $90 million he was supposed to have received has been forfeited, by him, and replaced with an envelope containing 20 seemingly useless items. As it turns out, he had built a machine that could see into the future, and so the 20 items are supposed to help him escape from situations in the future. I lost interest when the crystal ball stuff came into play. The initial premise is quite interesting, but Affleck spends most of the movie getting into tight corners and then reaching into his envelope to determine what object came help him next. The whole idea is corny and not fun to watch.
All this being said, Paycheck is moderately entertaining at times, even if Affleck's character is too stupid to ever pick up a gun (he takes on about 10 security guards with a wooden staff, when he could just as easily pick up one of their many weapons that shoot things called bullets). In fact, the entire movie is on the verge of being entertaining, but it is just a little too stupid.
Another problem is Affleck himself. I have never been a huge fan of Ben, but have never been strongly anti-Ben, either. Some people hate his guts, calling him one of the most boring actors of his generation. I might not go that far, but I am beginning to realize that Affleck has incredible luck, because he really does not deserve to be the star of any major motion picture. I didn't like him as Jack Ryan and he isn't convincing as an action hero here, either. There is just something about him that doesn't work.
Paycheck has an interesting premise, but fails to follow through on its potential. John Woo has really made a terrible movie that doesn't have a good plot, good acting or good action. Those who don't mind completely idiotic movies may find some entertainment out of this, but still not much. After Gigli, Paycheck isn't much of a step up, if at all.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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